The bill that the House approved last week, which should shortly become law, makes the following main changes:
- Banning everyone from texting (reading or sending electronic messages) while driving
- Banning junior operators (under 18) and public transportation drivers from non-emergency cell phone use while driving
- Making it easier for health care providers to report people of any age who are not competent to drive
- Requiring persons over 75 to appear in person for a vision exam every 5 years instead of every 10 years
Personally, I would have liked to see a bill that went further on limiting cell phone use. I was prepared to support on outright ban on non-emergency cell phone use while driving, for all drivers not just junior operators. I’m convinced that people who spend a lot of time on the phone while driving do seriously endanger other motorists and pedestrians and cyclists. The House want half way and banned hand-held use. The Senate opposed any restriction on adult calling. The Senate view prevailed on this issue.
The competence issue was also resolved in a moderate way. All of us who are over 50 know that vision deteriorates with age, so requiring a more frequent vision test (every five years) seems like a minimal imposition. The effort to increase medical reporting of incompetent drivers also seems sound and in no way discriminates based on age. The law does not impose an obligation to report, but simply authorizes reporting and protects providers from liability. It also requires that they base their reports on specific observations of incapacity that might limit driving competence (as opposed to mere age). We’ll have to see how it works in practice — the registry needs to develop new regulations and begin applying them.
I did vote for the bill and feel that it is a step in the right direction.
For the full text of the legislation, click here.