Massachusetts Senate Approves Texting Ban, Restrictions On Elderly Drivers

The passage yesterday in the Senate of a bill banning text messaging while driving and imposing visual and other medical tests on drivers over 75 years old is good news inasmuch as it presages a ban on hand-held texts, but the potential ban on hands-free devices and the medical review of seniors raise a lot of questions.
There really is no research data showing that hands-free wireless devices are anymore distracting than your car radio or carrying on a conversation with a passenger in your car.
The idea of having seniors’ doctors pull their license also makes me uncomfortable. A doctor’s duty is primarily to his or her patient, just as a lawyer’s duty is to his or her client. I wouldn’t like the idea of having to rat my clients’ driving out to the RMV (such a law would represent an unprecedented abrogation of attorney-client privilege) and I don’t think doctors should have to do it either. If the evaluating doctor is the driver’s personal physician, it really represents an intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship.
It appears that there are a lot of details to be ironed out about the medical evaluations of senior drivers. What happens if one doctor declares a patient unfit to drive and the driver gets a second opinion pronouncing him capable of driving? Why is the first doctor’s opinion sacrosanct and inviolable? If this is going to work at all, there need to be objective criteria that are employed, rather than doctors’ loosey-goosey opinions. Otherwise, there may be Due Process issues with the proposed law.
If Massachusetts passes the Senate version of the bill, we will be going further, perhaps, than any other state in regulating driving by seniors. According to this chart by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, the only jurisdictions that require anything more of seniors than eye tests or special renewal procedures are New Hampshire and Washington, D.C. and the Massachusetts bill would seem to be going even further than those jurisdictions.
This is something all drivers in Massachusetts will be keeping an eye on.

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