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National and state leaders urged passage of a Baker administration bill to improve road safety at a packed Joint Committee on Transportation hearing Thursday, arguing that Massachusetts needs to enforce seat belt use more strictly and crack down on handheld device use in order to save lives.
Representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the state Department of Transportation opened Thursday's hearing with remarks in favor of a bill (S.7) filed by Gov. Charlie Baker that proposes a wide range of new regulations aimed at reducing motor vehicle crashes.
The bill would allow police to enforce seat belt use requirements without first identifying another offense, require all OUI offenders to use an ignition interlock system, restrict the use of mobile devices by drivers and more.
"Today, sadly, Massachusetts has among the lowest seatbelt rates in the country, the only state lacking any provision for ignition interlocks for first-time offenders, and the last state in New England to enact a hands-free law," said Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack.
The proposed measures would cut down on avoidable crashes and reduce fatality rates, according to NTSB Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg.
"Strengthen the law, and lives will be saved," Landsberg said. "Turn on to driving, tune in to paying attention, and let's drop out of this dangerous and addictive behavior."
Other lawmakers filed their own versions of bills aimed at improving safety on the state's often congested roads.
Thursday's hearing was also scheduled to hear testimony on bills allowing for a non-binary gender option on driver's licenses and addressing use of mobility devices such as electric scooters.
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