Message to Massachusetts Lawmakers: Time for Cell Phone Ban

20160119-cellphoneincar-300.jpgThe Massachusetts State Senate is expected to consider a ban on hand-held mobile electronic devices while driving. Many feel a ban is long overdue and we agree.

“Even New Hampshire has gone hands-free. It’s time for Beacon Hill to act,” wrote the Boston Herald editorial board.

The Senate is expected to consider the ban Thursday. Under the proposed legislation, Massachusetts drivers could still talk on the phone using hands-free technology.

Drivers would receive a $100 fine for the first violation, $250 for the second and $500 for all subsequent violations. Drivers cited three times would receive an auto insurance surcharge.

The bill would change the law in Massachusetts for all drivers over 18. Junior operators are already banned from cell phone use behind the wheel.

According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use is now estimated to be involved in 26 percent of all motor vehicle crashes. At any given moment of the day, 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA also reported one survey found almost half of all drivers will answer an incoming call while driving. One in four drivers is willing to place a call on all, most, or some trips.

Texting While Driving Bans
In 2010, then-Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill into law which banned texting while driving. The state is in good company; today, 46 states and the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving. By contrast, only 14 states have banned hand-held cell phone use, including New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut. Maine and Rhode Island have banned texting while driving but hand-held cell phone bans have failed to gain enough support.

Read the Boston Herald’s recent editorial on a hand-held cell phone ban in Massachusetts.

Summary of the Safe Driving Law, Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles
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Thanksgiving Driving Safety

traffic_web.jpgThanksgiving is a special time of year when family and friends gather for tasty food and warm conversation. But before the turkey can be carved, many people have to travel. The majority of holiday travelers are driving. As they plan their trips, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is urging travelers to buckle up through its campaign, “Buckle Up America. Every Trip. Every Time.” Other government agencies are stressing good planning to help drivers avoid motor vehicle accidents.

Seat Belt Use
During the 2009 Thanksgiving holiday travel weekend, 303 passenger vehicle occupants died in motor vehicle crashes, according to the NHTSA. The majority of these deaths occurred at night, making it important to buckle up at all hours.

Plan Travel Times
The Wednesday before the holiday and Sunday following are the busiest travel days. If possible, plan to travel at other times.

Massachusetts 511 Traffic Updates
Visit the Massachusetts 511 website before you travel. It reports on traffic, car accidents and travel conditions throughout the state. Click here for more information.

Fuel Up
Make sure your gas tank is full before you start traveling.

Slow Down
Expect to have to travel below the speed limit in heavy traffic and make sure not to follow other vehicles too closely.

Stay Calm
Expect to see aggressive drivers on the road. Move away and never engage them.

Drowsy Driving
Drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 car crashes each year, resulting in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths, according to the NHTSA. Rest up before making the drive.
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Drive Safely This Memorial Day Weekend

As 35 million Americans plan to travel this Memorial Day weekend, we urge drivers in Massachusetts and throughout New England to think safety.

Travel will be down 100,000 travelers from 2010, which saw a 14 percent increase from the year before, according to the auto club AAA. Approximately 30.9 million people plan to drive 50 miles or more to their Memorial Day destination.

When this many drivers are on the road, it is especially important to watch out for those around you to avoid traffic accidents. That includes pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists as well as other cars. Here are some things to remember while traveling this holiday weekend:

  • Wear seatbelts and make sure everyone in the car does the same. It is the law in Massachusetts and has proven effective in preventing traffic fatalities. In 2008 alone, seat belts saved more than 13,000 lives nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • If you are traveling with children, make sure child passenger seats are in compliance with the law. Passenger seats can save lives in motor vehicle accidents. Click here to learn about Massachusetts’ child passenger seat law.
  • When the roads are congested, watch out for aggressive drivers. Aggressive driving behavior may include someone who is following you too closely, speeding or gesturing at you. Avoid eye contact. Do not gesture back. Make it your goal to move away from the driver and not be involved in an aggressive driving car accident. If you can get the driver’s license plate, report the driver to authorities when it is safe to do so.
  • Avoid driving fatigue. Do not drive if you have had inadequate sleep, worked an excessive number of hours or late at night without proper rest.
  • Give motorcyclists more distance – three or four seconds – when following from behind to prevent a motorcycle accident. The goal is to give the motorcyclist enough time to make decisions and stop quickly if needed.
  • Be aware that a motorcycle’s flashing turn signal can be deceptive. The signal may not be self-canceling and a motorcyclist may forget to turn it off. Wait to see whether the rider actually turns or a motorcycle accident may result.
  • Allow bicyclists 3 feet clearance when passing on the road.
  • Yield to cyclists at intersections and traffic signals before making your own driving decisions.
  • Watch out for pedestrians and runners even in areas you may not expect them. In 2009, pedestrian deaths accounted for 12 percent of all traffic fatalities.
  • Be vigilant about not driving while distracted and not texting while driving. It may be easy to let your guard down when you are relaxing among friends and family. But motor vehicle accidents happen fast and it is best to focus on the road.
  • If you are drinking alcohol, do not drive, bicycle or walk on the road.

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Motorists, Please Help Prevent Accidents: Look Closer for Bicycles and Motorcycles

It is Bay State Bike Week in Massachusetts, a time to focus on safety for cyclists. During this week, cyclists are hard to miss as they gather at large events in Boston, Cambridge and across the state.

But the daily reality is many Massachusetts cyclists are far less visible to drivers, spending the majority of their time riding alone or in small groups. And when drivers get behind the wheel, they usually pay attention to other motor vehicles and pedestrians at crosswalks. But bicyclists and motorcyclists tend to get lost in the scenery, which can lead to bicycle accidents and motorcycle accidents.

We do not make this observation alone. We join many others, including the Transport for London (TPL), which manages a complex transportation network that includes buses, railway, underground trams and more than 900 miles in roads. It also manages a popular cycle hire service, which allows visitors and residents to rent bicycles 24 hours a day from docking stations around the city.

TPL has gained an Internet following in recent years with its “Think!” campaigns, asking members of the public to test their awareness of what they are viewing. We encourage you to watch one eye-opening video below. Others can be found at
We suggest that you watch for changes or unique placements on the screen. But even with this warning, many people have to be told how the scene changes. The message: we should all take a closer look as we travel among others in our daily lives.

Motorists should take a closer look on the roadways to make sure they see bicyclists and motorcyclists. Doing so will prevent motor vehicle accidents, bicycle accidents, motorcycle accidents and save lives.
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New Child Safety Seat Recommendations

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics have issued new safety recommendations to protect young children from motor vehicle accidents. They are advising parents to keep children in rear-facing seats until age two, or until they reach the maximum height and weight requirements for the seat.

The previous recommendation from 2002 was also for children to ride in rear-facing car seats until they reached the maximum height and weight requirements – or until the child had reached a minimum of age one and 20 pounds. Using this standard, many parents turned the car seats around when their child reached age one.

The NHTSA and the American Academy of Pediatrics issued the recommendation citing a 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention, which showed that children under age two traveling in rear-facing seats are 75 percent less likely to die or suffer severe injuries in car accidents.

The two groups made additional recommendations for booster seats, saying children should ride in them until they have reached four feet nine inches tall and are between eight and 12 years old.

The groups also recommend children ride in the backseat until they are 13.

The new recommendations come as motor vehicle accident deaths among children under age 16 have decreased significantly in recent years – 45 percent between 1997 and 2009, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

But motor vehicle accidents remain the leading cause of death for children ages four and older. More than 5,000 children, teens and young adults up to age 21 die in motor vehicle accidents each year. For every fatality, 18 children are hospitalized and more than 400 require medical care.

Massachusetts law requires child safety seats to protect children from car accidents. Children must be secured in child safety seats until they turn 7 years old.

Click here for more details about Massachusetts’ Child Passenger Safety Law.
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Teen Driver Safety Week

Parent-teen contracts are the focus as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration observes Teen Driver Safety Week Oct. 17-24.

It’s been well documented that teen drivers face more risks on the road than other drivers. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teens. Teen drivers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes each year as all other drivers.

Safety officials are pushing a number of efforts this Teen Driver Safety Week, including parent-teen contracts, stronger junior operator laws, improving use of seat belts and reducing teen access to alcohol.

Parent Teen Contracts
The parent-teen contracts are available from insurance companies, auto club AAA and government offices. They cover areas such as seat belt use, passengers allowed in the car, alcohol and nighttime driving. While the contracts may offer teens an insurance discount, many advocates see them as a way to involve parents. The Center for Disease Control is stressing parent involvement with its “Parents are the Key” education campaign launched this week.

Junior Operator Law
Attention is also on junior operator laws this week. Massachusetts adopted its Junior Operater Law on January 3, 2007. The law banned teens from driving between 12:30 a.m. and 5 a.m., implemented a passenger restriction and instituted harsh penalties for speeding, drag-racing and negligent operation.

The law was strengthened in September 2010, when Massachusetts teen drivers were banned from using cell phones and other mobile electronic devices.

Seat Belts
Seat belts are important for every driver and passenger. But this point needs to be stressed to teens. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teen drivers and their passengers are the least likely to wear safety belt – yet the most likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Reducing Teen Access to Alcohol
The consequences can be deadly when teens mix alcohol with driving. Among 15- to 20-year-old drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2006, 31 percent of the drivers had been drinking and weren’t wearing a seat belt.

For more information on the Massachusetts Junior Operator Law, click here.

For information about Teen Driver Safety Week, click here.
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Car Care Month Time to Check Your Car For Safety

October is a month to enjoy the fall foliage and help young children choose their Halloween costumes. But it is also a good time to prepare your car for the harsh winter driving that lies ahead.

The nation’s largest auto club AAA observes October as Car Care Month, giving all drivers reason to check their automobiles for safety. If you are a AAA club member, this means you are eligible for a $1 visual inspection at a local AAA location. On Saturday, Oct. 16, members can visit the Franklin, Rockland or Newton AAA offices for an inspection. On Saturday, Oct. 23, visual inspections will be offered in Saugus. Click here for a $1 coupon.

AAA club members can also prepare for winter with a free car battery test. Click here for those locations.

If you do not belong to an auto club, winter is the time to consider joining one. Another sound practice is to carry a cell phone with you while driving in case you breakdown or have a car accident and have to call the police, an auto club or family member for help.

In a year of car recalls, you may also want to check whether your car has been involved in a safety recall. The manufacturer should have notified you of any recalls. But if you are concerned about a smaller recall that may have slipped your attention, contact your local car dealer or visit

Our last suggestion is to put together a car safety kit should you ever get stuck on the roadway or in a car accident. Here are some things to include:

  • First aid kit
  • 12-foot jumper cables
  • Four 15-minute roadside flares
  • Colored safety vest to wear in case of breakdown
  • Extra fuses
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Tool kit with screwdrivers, pliers and adjustable wrench
  • Tire inflator (such as a Fix-A-Flat)
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Rags
  • Roll of paper towels and duct tape
  • Pocketknife
  • Ice scraper
  • Pen and paper
  • Help sign

If you have an accident, remember to record all relevant information, including the name, address, license number of the other driver, the model and registration of any vehicles; and the names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses.
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Keeping Kids Safe from Motor Vehicles in Warm Weather

For young children, summer is about warm weather, splashing around the pool and family daytrips. These activities often involve a motor vehicle and that, combined with a change in routine during which people may drop their guard, may present dangers. The key is for parents to educate themselves about potential motor vehicle accidents, then actively pay attention.

Hyperthermia and Heat Stroke
With many things on their minds, parents can quickly forget a child who is usually in school is in the backseat. Parents need to be extra careful in the summer not to leave children in the car unattended and should also avoid it in the cooler months.

If the outside temperature is 80 degrees, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach the 100 degree mark within minutes. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration advises that even temperatures in the 60s can rise beyond 100 inside your closed-up car. Children’s bodies overheat much faster than adults and leaving the window open a small amount may not be enough.

Avoid leaving your child in the car unattended by placing your purse or briefcase in the backseat with your child. Also try writing yourself a note and placing it where you will see it when exiting the vehicle. At home, keep your keys out of your child’s reach.

Power Windows

Most new cars are built with power windows, a feature great for convenience but potentially dangerous for children.

Implementing strong rules protects your children. Never allow your children to be alone in your vehicle. Teach children not to play with automobile window switches. For your part, never leave the keys in the ignition when you are not there. Before purchasing, investigate vehicles with safeguards, such as power windows that automatically go down when a child’s arm gets in the way.

Motor Vehicle Backovers
Adults pulling vehicles out of driveways always need to watch for young children. But the need is greatest in the warm weather when children spend more time outdoors.

Parents and drivers must both work to keep children safe. If you are a parent, keep a close eye on your children. Teach them not to play around cars and to move away when a driver enters a vehicle to avoid a motor vehicle accident. Teach children not to leave their toys in the driveway. Drivers can back out of their driveways slowly and ask children to stand on the sidewalk.

Trunk Accidents

Children love to play and that sometimes leads them to the danger of a vehicle trunk. Because this can be deadly, parents must watch youngsters closely and teach children trunks are for cargo, not for playing.

Always lock car doors and trunks and keep keys out of sight. Keep the rear fold-down seats closed or locked to prevent your children from climbing.

Lastly, explain the dangers of playing in the trunk and show young children how to use the “glow in the dark” trunk release in case of emergency. Auto manufacturers have been required to install these releases in new vehicles since September 2001. If you have an older car, ask your local car dealer about retrofitting your vehicle with the release.

For more tips on children and motor vehicle safety, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website.
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Scheme at the MBTA Results in Buses Going Uninspected

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has concluded a three month investigation into a scheme resulting in 200 buses not receiving inspections for mechanical problems and routine maintenance services. The MBTA provides public transportation services to Massachusetts residents throughout the Greater Boston area.

At the close of the investigation, 13 managers were fired for falsifying the mileage records of 200 buses to avoid scheduled inspections. Six other managers received three day suspensions for lesser roles in the scheme. Unless additional information becomes known, the MBTA does not anticipate terminating any other individuals. 

According to MBTA General Manager Richard Davey, the MBTA has mostly caught up with the inspection backlog. Officials also stated that the deferred inspections did not cause any known safety problems or accidents because bus drivers visually inspect the buses before use. The MBTA requires bus inspections every 6000 miles. According to reports, some of the affected 200 buses went over 35,000 miles without inspections.

An anonymous terminated superintendent is claiming that the disciplined managers are taking the fall for a widely recognized policy of pushing off routine inspections and were reacting to pressure from higher management to keep buses in service. He says he is considering legal action against the MBTA.  The terminated superintendent says it is common within the MBTA to treat serious issues immediately but postpone the scheduled inspections if the buses were needed for service due to emergencies or track repairs and that management was aware of this policy.

State Transportation Secretary Jeffrey B. Mullan said several government departments have been notified about the inspection issue and the agency is reviewing whether any criminal or civil laws have been violated by the false records or missed inspections.

For more information on the MBTA inspection issue, see this Boston Globe article. 

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Aging Motorcyclists Face Greater Risk for Injuries

Baby boomers are taking to the open road on motorcycles at greater rates than ever before and as they do, their personal injuries and fatalities resulting from motorcyle accidents are increasing.

The American Motorcyclist Association reports its average membership age is now 48. The Motorcycle Industry Council trade association, meanwhile, reports the average age of all motorcycle owners increased from 33 to 40 years old between 1998 and 2003.

motorcycle rider.jpgThe Massachusetts Department of Public Health reports the rate of motorcycle-related deaths and injuries in the state for riders between 55 and 64 quadrupled between 1998 and 2007.  Additionally, although nationally there was a decline in motorcycle related fatalities regardless of age, Massachusetts experienced an increase in fatal motorcycle crashes.

The state Department of Public Health is not the only one to notice a correlation between age and severity of injury.  Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center recently found that motorcyclists over the age of 40 sustained more serious personal injuries, spent more time in the hospital, and were up to twice as likely to die from a motorcycle accident than riders under 40.

Dr. Mark Gestring, the lead author of the study and director of the trauma center, noticed older riders and more severe injuries in the emergency room.  His research team examined records in the National Trauma Databank and noted several disturbing trends:

  • Riders over 40 were 5% more likely than riders under 40 to require hospitalization in the intensive care unit.
  • Riders over 40 were more likely to suffer complications such as blood clots, pneumonia, or infections.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found a 145% increase from 2000 to 2006 in death rates for motorcyclists over 65.

Doctors report that there are several factors accounting for the increased severity and fatality of injuries sustained by older riders.  First, older riders have less resilient skin, bones and blood vessels and cannot handle as much physical trauma as their younger counterparts.  Additionally, older riders come into the hospital with more preexisting heath problems and take more medications that can complicate injuries.

For more information, read this recent Boston Globe article about aging motorcyclists in Massachusetts.
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