As Massachusetts residents prepare for all their travels this holiday season, Gov. Charlie Baker is highlighting legislative proposals that aim to keep the commonwealth’s roadways safe.
In 2016, there were 389 deaths on Massachusetts roads, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. That’s an increase of 12.8 percent from 2015. Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities specifically saw an increase as well, up to 119 deaths in 2016 from 109 in 2015.
“During the holiday season, millions of people will travel across the Commonwealth to be with loved ones, and we are making it a priority to keep the roads safe,” Baker said in a statement. “We encourage everyone to travel safely and limit dangerous behaviors like distracted or impaired driving. To give law enforcement and officials the tools to increase enforcement, we are pleased to highlight a series of bills that could make a difference in road safety for all.”
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Baker, Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack and other officials announced on Tuesday the filing of two new legislative proposals they hope will keep drivers here safer.
The first, An Act Promoting Construction Zone Safety, says that it will increase road safety by allowing MassDOT to set and enforce lower speeds through work zones. Currently, lower speeds can only be suggested.
The second deals with an eye test given in OUI prosecutions, providing uniform standards for admissibility in the courts, so prosecutors do not have to establish that test’s validity in every case.
Officials also highlighted two pending legislative items he believes should be passed: one that says those charged with their third OUI should be eligible to be held in custody when a judge determines their release “would pose a severe danger to the community,” and another that would strengthen the state’s “hands free” statute, prohibiting the use of mobile electronics while behind the wheel.
“The holiday travel season is an important time to talk about highway safety and these legislative proposals are important to reducing a rise in recent crashes,” Pollack said in a statement. “During the Thanksgiving travel period a year ago, there were six fatalities in Massachusetts due to automobile crashes. We look forward to seeing these initiatives take effect with the goal of slowing drivers down, encouraging them to keep eyes on the road and to not get behind the wheel when they are impaired.”