Speaker Pro Tem's Bill Stresses Link Between Dangerous Driving and Crippling, High-Cost Injuries

Monday, May 20, 2013

The only thing I don’t like about House Bill 3067 is the title: An Act Relative to the Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund.  Too bland. 
I would prefer something like An Act to Make Dangerous Drivers Pay More for Vital Medical Research, or An Act to Increase Penalties on Aggressive and Careless Motorists.
HB 3067 would double the surcharge on drivers seeking reinstatement of their licenses after losing them for speeding, and double the portion of the surcharge sent to the state’s Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund.
Under current law, the state imposes a $50 license reinstatement surcharge on speeders, while allocating the first $25 of the surcharge to the Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund.  If HB 3067 becomes law, the surcharge would jump to $100 and the trust fund would receive $50 every time it is levied.
Established by Chapter 276 of the Acts of 2004, the Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund helps support research into cures for paralyzing spinal injuries.  The State Treasurer serves as fund custodian.
The legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation conducted a hearing on HB 3067 this past Thursday at the State House.  Among those testifying for the bill were some folks who’d been severely injured in accidents caused by dangerous drivers.
According to the State House News Service, Michael Estrada of West Roxbury told the committee that roughly 350 Massachusetts residents suffer serious spinal cord injuries every year, and that most of them are hurt in car accidents.  Estrada was a young man in training to be a police officer when his motorcycle was hit by a car several years ago.  Now he gets around in a wheelchair.
Speeding is defined as exceeding the posted speed limit or driving too fast for prevailing road or weather conditions. 
We’ve all speeded at one time or another.  But this bill is not targeted at the occasional, mild offender.  To lose your license for speeding in Massachusetts, you have to be found guilty of speeding three times within any 12-month period. 
You can also lose your license for receiving five or more moving violations or surchargeable offenses in any three-year period.  If An Act Relative to the Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund goes on the books, the number of moving violations or surchargeable offenses triggering a license revocation would drop from five to three.
Research by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) shows that the “risk of having a crash is increased both for vehicles traveling slower than the average speed, and for those traveling above the average speed.”  The risk of being injured “increases exponentially” with speeds much faster than the median speed, the FHA says.
SmartMotorist.com estimates that speeding-related crashes cost U.S. society more than $22 billion a year.
So, by all means, double the surcharge on speeders who want to regain the privilege of driving in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Thank you, House Speaker Pro Tem Patricia Haddad of Somerset, for sponsoring An Act Relative to the Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund.  And thank you, Senator Marc Pacheco of Taunton and Representative Paul McMurtry of Dedham, for co-sponsoring it.
If the bill passes, please consider supplementing it next session with legislation requiring repeat offenders to sport bumper stickers that say: Chronic Speeder on Board.  I want to know who to steer clear of.

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