The tragedy this weekend involving a 4 year old girl killed by an 88 year old driver puts a knot in my stomach. Such a thing is horrible to think about, and politically dangerous - for a whole host of reasons - to talk about. Nobody wants to be crosswise with a grieving family who has suffered such an unfathomable loss. That is understandable. Perhaps it explains the response - or non-response, rather - to this WBZ email survey of our state legislators yesterday.
Every single member of the House and the Senate was sent an email with this straightforward question: "Are you in favor or opposed to legislation requiring road tests for all drivers 85 and older?"
The overwhelming response, by 33 (out of 40) Senators and 130 (out of 160) Representatives was... "Did Not Reply." That group includes both Transportation Committee chairs, and Senate President Murray. At least Speaker DeLeo had the courtesy to respond, albeit with a carefully-padded answer: "Looks forward to seeing recommendations."
Not a soul responded in opposition to road-testing legislation, but it is a good bet that significant opposition is in fact buried in that avalanche of 'did not reply.'
Some will oppose the bill on anti-government principle, arguing that mandatory road tests represent just another small encroachment by Beacon Hill into our lives and our rights. Others will oppose it based purely on political calculation. The senior lobby is powerful, and it views testing of senior drivers in the same way that unions view mandatory drug testing, or a Sox fan views Derek Jeter.
Set aside the debate for a moment (always holding out hope that this might be the rare issue that actually sees a "debate" on Beacon Hill, eventually). Turn away from the specific issue, with all of the emotion and tragedy and invective, and here is what we have:
A high-profile issue of great moment and a significant degree of public interest. A major media organization asks a simple, straightforward question of the elected representatives of the people. And the response of the overwhelming majority of those elected representatives is to ignore the question.
Is that not a problem?