Globe Editorial

Driving bills stuck in slow lane

January 11, 2010

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GIVEN THE public safety implications, the lives that are literally at stake, it is outrageous that the Legislature cannot find a way to swiftly pass bills to ban texting while driving and impose some competency tests on elderly drivers. While most other states have passed one or both of these restrictions, Massachusetts lawmakers continue to drag their feet: A Senate provision to ban texting while driving was killed before the House could vote on it last summer, while some key lawmakers are at loggerheads over how - and how often - to test drivers who are older than 75.

On both matters, the correct path is clear for a public body charged with protecting its constituents. Texting while driving should not be allowed, and a ban on the act can be passed before lawmakers consider a broader provision to require that calls from the road be made from hands-free devices. As for elderly drivers, lawmakers who are arguing over whether to opt for an occasional road test or to impose a test of mental competency should consider doing both, as well as shortening the period between license renewals. Yes, some older voters - with an emphasis on “vote’’ - will complain that they are being inconvenienced. But the notion that vision and reflexes don’t change with age is absurd, and one accident at the hands of an incompetent driver is one too many. When it comes to making Massachusetts roads more safe, the time for study has long been over. Voters of all ages should expect more leadership, especially in an election year.

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