Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced a package of road safety legislation that would allow police to stop drivers for not wearing a seatbelt and allow cities and towns to use red light cameras, among other measures.
Baker announced he will re-file several provisions aimed at improving road safety during a Monday press conference, including more stringent penalties for people who injure others while driving with a suspended license and updates language around commercial driver's licenses. The measures were previously filed by the Administration in 2019.
Massachusetts saw 334 roadway deaths over the past year, which was almost even with the 336 deaths in 2019, despite a decrease in driving during the coronavirus pandemic. Most were single car accidents, and the primary cause in many cases was speed, according to Baker.
"We can certainly help prevent these traffic deaths," Baker said Monday. "The legislation includes important provisions to ensure that the rules of the road are followed and strict consequences if they're not."
The traffic camera enforcement provision allows local cities and towns to place red light cameras at intersections to collect photographs of licenses plates when someone violates driving laws like running a red light and making an illegal turn on a red light.
Other measures in the legislative package include a three-foot “safe passing distance" when going by bicyclists or pedestrians, updates on crash data reporting requirements and an advisory group to recommend a new statutory framework around electric scooters and bicycles.
Baker was joined by state transportation officials as well as the father of Haley Cremer, a 20-year-old physical therapy student who was killed in 2015 when a driver operating with a suspended license hit her with an SUV in Sharon.
Her father, Mark Cremer, spoke about the "unimaginable tragedy," his family faced on Friday at the State House and emphasized the need for the legislation.
"This was no random accident. This was preventable," Cremer said. "Had this law we're discussing today been in an effect on that day, Haley may very well be here with us today."
The driver, Jeffrey Bickoff, was convicted of motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation in connection with the incident, as well as reckless assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
"She was 20, and just entering the prime for life," Cremer said of his daughter, who had just completed her sophomore year at Simmons College.
Hayley's Law would create three levels of new “aggravating factors” to driving while suspended: 1) Driving negligently/recklessly: fine up to $1,000 and up to five years in prison; 2) Causing “serious bodily injury:” fine up $3,000 and house of correction up to two-and-a-half years; and 3) Causing death: fine up to $5,000 and mandatory two years to a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Current statute simply penalizes for driving while suspended.
Meanwhile, speculation is mounting about if and when Baker may announce changes to the state's mask mandate and other COVID-19 restrictions.
Though neighboring states like New Hampshire, Connecticut and now Rhode Island have announced they are relaxing mask mandates and business restrictions, Gov. Charlie Baker said last week that he's not ready to make a similar announcement regarding Massachusetts. But he said there could be news on that before the end of the month.
The last time the rules changes in Massachusetts was a month ago when large venues like Fenway Park were permitted to open at 12% capacity, and most businesses are still restricted to 50% capacity and no more than 500 people.
New Hampshire announced earlier this month that it was lifting its mask mandate and rolling back all other pandemic-related measures on May 7. And Connecticut announced Monday that it will lift all outdoor restrictions on May 1 and all other business restrictions will be phased out starting May 19.