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The House proposes to the Senate to amend the bill by striking all after the enacting clause and inserting in lieu thereof the following:


This act shall be known as and may be cited as the “Highway Traffic Safety Act of 2007.”

* * * Legislative Findings * * *


The general assembly finds that:

* * * General Findings * * *

(1)  In December 2006, the governor transmitted to the Division Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration the Strategic Highway Plan for Vermont that stated “The first half of 2006 was trending toward a near record‑breaking year for highway deaths and incapacitating injuries.”  In response to this trend, the Strategic Highway Fatality Plan for Vermont was created with the mission to “minimize the occurrence and severity of crashes, related human suffering, and economic losses on the Vermont transportation network.”

(2)  In response to this increase, the commissioner of public safety held a law enforcement summit to develop collaborative strategies to combat these fatalities.

(3)  According to the governor’s highway safety office, each highway fatality costs the state of Vermont more than $900,000.00.

(4)  In further recognition of the terrible toll in terms of human suffering, and financial loss resulting from motor vehicle crashes, on July 6, 2006, the Vermont department of health’s injury prevention program hosted the 2006 Symposium on Preventing Crashes Among Young Drivers at the Inn at Essex, Vermont.  The symposium brought together key leaders in highway safety, transportation, public health, and youth development for an in‑depth,

multidisciplinary exploration of crashes among young drivers and opportunities for prevention.

* * * Teen Driving Safety * * *

(1)  The Strategic Highway Safety Plan for Vermont of 2006, signed by the governor and endorsed by state agencies, stated that “new language” should be added to the existing graduated driver license legislation to achieve:

(A)  Restrictions on passengers in cars driven by young drivers.

(B)  Nighttime limitations for young drivers.

(C)  Primary safety belt enforcement to the age of 18.

(D)  No cell phone use for junior operators. 

(2)  From a public health perspective, “Motor vehicle crashes are among the most serious problems facing teenagers (Anatomy of Crashes Involving Young Drivers‑Preventing Teen Motor Crashes).”  According to the Centers for Disease Control, highway injuries and deaths constitute the largest reason for youth injuries and deaths, and therefore constitute a public health risk warranting remedial action.

(3)  According to the above sources, the 2002 cost of crashes involving drivers ages 20 through 25 was $40.8 billion.  (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2006.)

(4)  A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety on junior operators demonstrated that a single passenger nearly doubled the risk of a fatal crash, and two or more passengers raise the risk fivefold for the junior operator.

(5)  Nighttime is one of the riskiest times of day for junior operators due to DUI, darkness, and sleep deprivation in teens.  Midnight to 2 a.m. is the most dangerous time.

* * * Cell Phones * * *

(1)  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration policy on cell phones states “The primary responsibility of the driver is to operate a motor vehicle safely.  The task of driving requires full attention and focus.  Cell phone use can distract drivers from this task, risking harm to themselves and others.  Therefore, the safest course of action is to refrain from using a cell phone while driving.”

(2)  Teens, driving, and cell phones are a dangerous mix due to teens’ vulnerability to distractions and accidents.  (“Teens, phones, cars, a bad mix,” The Sunday Rutland Herald, June 26, 2005—Source—The National Transportation Safety Board.)

* * * Safety Belts * * *

(1)  States with primary enforcement average 10 percent higher usage than states with secondary enforcement.

(2)  A crash involving an unrestrained person costs 55 percent more than for someone who was restrained.

(3)  Approximately 74 percent of the costs associated with crashes are paid for by society; the victim pays the balance.

(4)  Drivers who do not wear safety belts are also most likely to engage in risky driving behavior, such as speeding or drinking and driving.

(5)  Traffic crashes are a health care issue, not an enforcement issue.  As Dr. Eliot Nelson, pediatrician at Vermont’s Childrens Hospital and professor at the UVM school of medicine said, “By passing primary (enforcement), the legislature can save more lives with one stroke of the pen than I can in a lifetime of practice.”

* * * Operation After Recall Is a Civil Violation * * *

Sec. 3.  23 V.S.A. § 676 is amended to read:


(a)  A person whose license or privilege to operate a motor vehicle has been revoked, suspended or, refused, or recalled by the commissioner of motor vehicles for any reason other than a violation of sections 1091(b), 1094(b), 1128(b) or (c), or 1201 or a suspension under section 1205 of this title and who operates or attempts to operate a motor vehicle upon a public highway before the license or privilege of the person to operate a motor vehicle has been reinstated by the commissioner commits a civil traffic violation.

(b)  In establishing a prima facie case against a person accused of violating this section, the judicial bureau shall accept as evidence, a printout attested to by the law enforcement officer as the person’s motor vehicle record showing convictions and resulting license suspensions.  The admitted motor vehicle record shall establish a permissive inference that the person was under suspension or had his or her license revoked or recalled on the dates and time periods set forth in the record.  The judicial bureau shall not require a certified copy of the person’s motor vehicle record from the department of motor vehicles to establish the permissive inference.

* * * Junior Operator Night‑Time Restriction * * *

Sec. 4.  23 V.S.A. § 614(c) and (d) are added to read:

(c)  A person operating with a junior operator’s license shall not operate a motor vehicle between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. except when carrying the signed and dated written permission of a parent or guardian that contains the parent's or guardian's contact information, including a home and work address and phone numbers, or except when:

(1)  traveling on a direct route between work and home;

(2)  traveling for a school‑related activity; or

(3)  going to or returning from hunting or fishing, provided the operator has in his or her possession hunting or fishing equipment and a valid hunting or fishing license.

(d)  A person in violation of subsection (c) of this section shall be allowed to drive his or her vehicle on a direct route home, following issuance of a traffic ticket by a law enforcement officer.

* * * Safety Restriction on the Use of Cellular Telephones and Hand‑Held Electronic Devices by Junior Operators * * *

Sec. 5.  23 V.S.A. § 1095a is added to read:


A person operating a motor vehicle with a learner permit under the provisions of section 617 of this title or with a junior operator license under the provisions of section 607 of this title shall not use any wireless telephone or hand‑held electronic device while operating on the traveled portion of the highway.  This prohibition shall not apply if it is necessary to place an emergency 911 call.

* * * Use of Cellular Telephones and other Electronic Devices by A Person Operating a Vehicle with an Operators License * * *

Sec. 6.  23 V.S.A. § 1095b is added to read:


(a)  A person operating a motor vehicle with a valid operators license shall be restricted to using only a hands‑free wireless telephone or hands‑free electronic communication device while operating on the traveled portion of the highway.  This prohibition shall not apply if it is necessary to place an emergency 911 call.

(b)  As used in this section, “hands‑free” means a mobile telephone that has an internal feature or function, or that is equipped with an attachment or addition, whether or not permanently part of the mobile telephone, by which a user engages in a conversation without the use of either hand; provided, however, this definition shall not preclude the use of either hand to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of the telephone.

* * * Primary Enforcement of Safety Belt Law; Federal Funds * * *


(a)  23 V.S.A. § 1259(e) (secondary enforcement of safety belt law) is repealed.

(b)  The state is authorized to accept any additional funding available from the federal government attributable to the passage of this section.


(a)  This section and Secs. 1, 2, and 3 of this act shall take effect from passage.

(b)  Sec. 7 shall take effect on June 30, 2007.

(c)  Secs. 4, 5, and 6 shall take effect on September 1, 2007.

Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont