On the Road for the Fourth
Jul 4, 2019


Two U.S. senators have introduced a bill (S. 2033) that would electronically limit tractor-trailer speeds to 65 mph.  If approved, the bill would require all new trucks to have speed limiters activated.  It would also be extended to existing trucks that already have the technology installed, but it would not need to be retrofitted on rigs without technology.  According to the DOT, the “speed-limiter rule” would decrease the estimated 1,115 fatal crashes a year involving trucks going 55 mph or more.



Illinois, Tennessee, and Florida all had laws on distracted driving go into effect this week.  Illinois is imposing a $75 fine along with a moving violation, which with three moving violations in a year brings a license suspension.  In Tennessee, the new “Hands Free Law” allows drivers to push one button to accept or end a phone call, but that’s it.  If you’re not on the phone but have it in your hand, you’re going to be in violation of the law.  Florida is imposing a non-moving violation and $30 fine for texting-while-driving.  However, there are exceptions that allow people to use their phones while driving for safety-related messages, navigation, traffic, or weather alerts.  To know for sure, the officer would need to inspect your phone, which you can decline under the law without penalty.



The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has declared fatigue a “pervasive problem” in all forms of transportation and added reducing fatigue-related accidents to its 2019-2020 “most wanted list” of safety improvements.  A study by the DOT more than a decade ago reported 13% of truck drivers involved in crashes that resulted in fatalities or injuries were fatigued at the time of the accident.  There were 4,657 large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2017, a 10% increase from the year before, according to a May FMCSA report.



Ray Martinez, head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), informed the Commerce Committee during a hearing that the proposed hours-of-service (HOS) rule is in the final stages and will be announced in the near term.  The Department of Transportation has been working to loosen regulations on how many hours truck drivers can work.  The long-anticipated proposed rule had a release date of June 7.  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is reviewing the proposed changes, which have not yet been made public.


Marijuana Expansion


Almost three years after Maine voters approved recreational marijuana retail sales, the state is finally ready to start selling it in March 2020.  The regulations signed by Gov. Janet Mills allow only people who have lived in the state four years or more to seek a license to grow or sell marijuana products or to own a majority in the business.  In the Midwest, Illinois officially became the 11th state to legalize the purchase and possession of recreational marijuana when Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill into law last week.  The law goes into effect in Jan. 1, 2020.



The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill to prevent the Department of Justice (DOJ) from interfering with state marijuana laws, including those allowing recreational use, cultivation, and sales.  The inclusion of adult-use programs represents a significant expansion of an existing policy that protects only state medical cannabis laws from federal intervention.  The existing policy has been in effect since 2014 and been extended through annual spending bills.  The expanded language is now attached to a large-scale appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2020.  We’ll see if this expansion goes up in smoke.


Making Our Way Around the Country


The Ohio Senate passed a $645 million budget for the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, after stripping out sections on first responders and immigrations added by the House.  The Senate cut the House provision that would allow first responders to file claims for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) without having to show physical injuries.  The Senate also eliminated the provision requiring injured employees to declare their immigration and citizenship status.  The House did not concur with the Senate-passed bill, meaning a conference committee will have to reach an agreement.



Beginning this week, workers’ compensation benefits now cover first responders in Connecticut diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after witnessing an unnerving event in the line of duty.  The law was born out of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where first responders were witness to 20 slain schoolchildren.  The benefits are limited to a year and are available for four years after the event occurs.



Half of all states now require e-prescribing to combat the opioid crisis.  This past month, the governors of Texas, Florida, and Delaware signed into law requiring prescribers to use electronic prescriptions for patients.  In October 2018, President Trump signed a federal law bills requiring use of electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS) for all controlled substances under Medicare Part D by Jan. 1, 2021.



We’d like to wish everyone a happy, and most importantly, safe July 4th.  According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an average of 118 people died each Independence Day, making it the day of the most fatal car crashes.  For motorcyclists, you saw more than double the daily average, with an average of 25 deaths on the 4th.  Be careful as you’re going to your BBQs and fireworks!  Don’t forget to take a moment to reflect on some 4th of July quotes – I like President Harry S. Truman’s.


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