The New Driving Rules

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.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

7 replies on “The New Driving Rules”

  1. Long overdue but I would also have preferred an absolute ban on non-emergency cell phone use while driving (with a hands free exception).

      1. Lets ban conversations and radios too.
        You yourself have even said accidents are down. Hand held use does not lead to more accidents. If you feel it’s bad for you then fine don’t do it. I myself feel you are infringing on my ability to drive just fine while talking on the phone just as well as talking to someone next to me or singing with a song on the radio.
        What you think is good for you is fine but it is not fair to me as I am capable to dive and talk at the same time.

  2. I don’t understand how anybody could not vote to ban hand held phone use while driving. I’ve had a couple of near misses – as a pedestrian and driver – involving adults talking on a hand-held phone while driving and carrying young children in the back seat.
    Can you explain why the senate chose to oppose this ban? How can they care so much about health care and fail to prohibit a behavior that can have such devastating consequences – right up there with drinking from my perspective.

    1. I think people push back on a full ban as a nanny-state excess. I see it as you do — it’s like drunk driving.

      Also, a great many people spend a great deal of time in the car and they just don’t want to give up the companionship and time value of talking on the phone.

  3. Unfortunately, it will require some widely publicized tragic accidents to change public opinion on this issue. It’s my opinion (I have no proof to support this contention) that many drivers complacently attempt to “multi-task” while at the wheel, creating dangerous situations both in the city and on the highway. It should be no secret that careful driving requires applied application of a driver’s total concentration, and cell phone usage constitutes an egregious distraction while guiding a vehicle through today’s highly challenging road environment.

  4. It seems absurd to even need a bill addressing this since “driving to endanger” should cover it. All cell phone use while driving should be banned. Now do we have to have a bill to ban: combing hair, reading the paper, applying mascara, etc? each of which I have seen drivers doing? Will, you are absolutely right!

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