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Advocates hope tightened seat belt law could boost state’s near-worst seat belt-wearing rate



Advocates hope tightened seat belt law could boost state’s near-worst seat belt-wearing rate

Bay State drivers can only get citations for not wearing a seatbelt if they’ve been stopped for another offense — but that could soon change.

Driver safety advocates, several legislators and the governor want to allow police officers to pull drivers over for not wearing a seatbelt alone.

“A seatbelt saved my life,” said state Rep. Paul Feeney, D-Foxboro, in an emotional testimony during a Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security hearing Wednesday. In pushing for a “primary enforcement” law for seatbelt wearing, Feeney said “if we can, through carefully crafted legislation, encourage seatbelt use to save lives as it did mine, then we’re making a difference in the commonwealth.”

Feeney relayed the story of how, as a 21-year-old, his car flipped over as he was driving his high school sweetheart, now wife. “The paramedics and first responders that showed up on the scene were sure that nobody survived that accident, yet (when) the car started to flip over, I could feel the seatbelt that I had on literally sucking me to that seat,” he said.

Another testifier had a similar experience, but she was not wearing her seatbelt. Kelly Buttglieri said that she was in her final months of law school and recently married in 1992 when she was hit head-on by a drunken driver. She was in a coma for four days after the accident, suffered short-term memory loss and word retrieval at the time, and still has regular seizures caused by the accident.

“The enactment of this bill is so vital to prevent serious injuries and really specifically brain injuries for motor vehicle accidents,” she said, adding that the funds from citations would go toward head injury services in the state.

Others noted that Massachusetts has among the lowest seat belt usage rates in the country at 77%, compared to a national average of 91%. Figures from AAA Northeast show that seat belt rates dropped further in the pandemic, by 3% for white Bay Staters, and 10.8% for Black residents.

“I’ve heard the opposition argument that it should not be government’s place to tell people to wear a seatbelt in their own car, but … once your vehicle becomes a projectile, and you pose a danger to other folks through your negligent conduct, the government must step in,” said Rep. Jeff Roy, D-Franklin.

He also addressed one of the most persistent counterarguments that has dogged this legislation and Baker when he proposed this reform earlier this year: racial profiling concerns. Roy suggested including data collection requirements into a redraft of the bill.

Others weren’t buying it. Becca Wolfson, executive director of the Boston Cyclists Union, noted that a similar law to prevent distracted driving has already been unevenly applied across races.

One analysis found that 70% of white drivers in violation of that law were let off with a warning, while only 60% of Black drivers were. Instead, she advocated for an education campaign using stories like Feeney’s and Buttglieri’s. “We see this as a storytelling and a budget issue, not a legislative one,” she said.

In 2001, the Senate approved a primary enforcement bill, and added a similar provision to a transportation bond bill in 2004. The House had tie votes on the issue in 2001 and 2003, with the tie vote preventing the measure from advancing further.

State House News Service contributed to this report.

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Patriots captain Matthew Slater addresses whether he’ll retire this offseason



Patriots captain Matthew Slater on Colts loss: ‘This is a good wake-up call for us’

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — For the past three offseasons, Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater has contemplated retirement.

He’ll soon make it four.

Slater, 36, briefly addressed his uncertain future after the Pats’ stunning 47-17 Wild Card loss at Buffalo on Saturday, saying he’ll take time to make a decision.

“I don’t want to disrespect the team and what we just went through and talk about my personal situation. Obviously, I’m closer to the end. We all know that,” he said. “I’ll pray about it and make a final decision and have some conversations. But tonight, I just want to make sure I express gratitude to people that I owe it to and take time to be reflective, not only for the experience this year, but the entirety of my career.”

Drafted in 2008, Slater is the team’s longest-tenured player and captain. He was voted a captain for an 11th straight season back in September. During the year, Slater was selected to an NFL-record 10th Pro Bowl as a special teams player.

Slater finished the regular season with 11 tackles and added two more in Saturday’s playoff loss.

Having signed a 2-year contract back in March 2020, he is now scheduled to become a free agent. Slater inked his last contract before hitting unrestricted free agency, something he could pursue again if he chooses to play another season.

Fellow captain Devin McCourty is also set to become a free agent, though he was not asked about his future after Saturday’s game.

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Josh Allen, Bills downplay significance of destroying Patriots in historic Wild Card win



Josh Allen, Bills downplay significance of destroying Patriots in historic Wild Card win

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — As the final minutes ticked off the clock of his team’s 47-17 trouncing of the Patriots, Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott allowed himself to take in the atmosphere.

For the better part of the last two decades, Buffalo had to endure the suffering of the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady-led Patriots’ dynasty. They owned the Bills like no other franchise. But over the last two seasons of the post-Brady era, the changing of the guard has been swift atop the AFC East.

Saturday night’s demolition of the Pats — one of the worst losses of Belichick’s coaching career — was the loudest stamp yet on a new era. The Pats allowed 47 points, the most of the Belichick era, and it was their third worst playoff loss in franchise history.

A rowdy and boisterous crowd at Highmark Stadium — the Bills’ first home playoff game since 1995 in which full capacity was allowed — under frigid conditions was just further proof. The dominant victory didn’t wipe all of Buffalo’s pain of the last 20 years away, but it was clear that it meant something more to their fanbase.

“I’m more happy for our fans,” McDermott said. “It’s not often that a coach can enjoy the last six minutes of the game and look up into the stands and see the fans enjoying it at home. I’m happy for them more than anything.”

But to the Bills players? The Patriots were just another opponent in their path.

Certainly, they understood the significance. They know the history. Prior to the 2020 season, the Bills were 5-35 against the Pats in the Belichick era. Consistent misery.

GIven all that, though, they didn’t take any extra pride in embarrassing the Pats on a big stage in the playoffs.

“It didn’t matter who we played, we were going to try to come out and dominate,” said Bills safety Micah Hyde. “I think it’s big for people in this community, people who are out there to be part of that game against that opponent just because we know the history and we know what’s happened for the last 20-plus years. We just wanted to come out here and play our game. It wasn’t about an exact opponent.”

The Bills did acknowledge that last month’s 14-10 Patriots victory at Highmark Stadium — a game the Pats dominated at the line of scrimmage — didn’t sit right with them. Defensive end Jerry Hughes said “it was a little bit on my mind.”

Jordan Poyer, though, insisted there wasn’t much of a carryover effect.

“I don’t think either of those games meant anything coming into this game,” the safety said of the two regular-season meetings. “We just wanted to go out there and be us. Execute at a high level. We felt like we were the better team and that’s what we showed tonight.”

The Bills stayed grounded in the moment. Even McDermott, who was criticized for some of the comments he made after last month’s loss, stayed humble.

“For us as a team this year, it’s one game,” McDermott said. “That’s a good football team, and they’ve been at the top for so long. I have a lot of respect for them. We just have to keep moving on.”

Josh Allen carried that respect forward, too. The Bills quarterback, who threw for 308 yards and five touchdowns in a surgical performance, was spotted after the game offering seemingly encouraging words for Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones, who played well in a losing effort.

“I’ll keep that private between me and him, but he’s a heck of a player,” Allen said.

Allen echoed the words of his teammates who were happy for the fans on Saturday night. Of course, he wasn’t around when the Pats were handing the Bills perennial beatings like the one seen here on Saturday. He’s now won four of his last five matchups against the Patriots.

“It feels good for the fans,” Allen said. “I know that. I’m glad we could give that to them, but at the end of the day, it’s a playoff game that we advanced on. It doesn’t matter what we did this week, or last week, or the week before. It matters what we do going forward.”

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Patriots react to season-ending Wild Card blowout at Buffalo: ‘Embarrassing’



Patriots react to season-ending Wild Card blowout at Buffalo: ‘Embarrassing’

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — In a small, windowless room neighboring the visitors locker room at Highmark Stadium, with temperatures outside drawing close to zero degrees, the Patriots were forced to confront the cold reality of their season-ending loss.

It had been record-setting in all the wrong ways.

Downed 47-17 by the Bills in the Wild Card round, the Patriots suffered their worst playoff loss of the Bill Belichick era, the third-worst in franchise history. They allowed the most points of any game in the Belichick era, and fourth-most in team history. And the Bills became the first NFL team ever to not record a punt, turnover or field goal attempt in a game.

So what did the Patriots make of their stunning defeat, their fourth loss in five weeks?

Bill Belichick

“Congratulate Buffalo on the win tonight. Obviously, they did a great job and we just couldn’t keep up with them tonight. Certainly deserve the win. Well-coached, executed well, and we just couldn’t do much of anything.”

S Devin McCourty 

“It is what it is. Obviously not our best game. Sucks to end the season that way. Credit to them, obviously. I don’t think we got a stop on defense tonight. So just not how you want to end the season, how you want to play the game.”

McCourty on the defensive performance:

“We practiced all week, we shouldn’t really perform like that. So, (it’s) embarrassing.”

QB Mac Jones

“I think obviously we didn’t play how we wanted to play, and every game’s different. We didn’t have a chance to win the game, and it starts with me. Just getting momentum early, and not putting ourselves in that position. OF course it’s not how we wanted it to be. Like I said, I could’ve played better, and a lot of guys would agree with me that we can push each other harder to get that product on the field. And I think there will be a lot of strides tis offseason to get there, working together however we can, and that’s gonna show up next year.”

LB Matt Judon

“It was just kind of their night. They were hitting on all cylinders and sometimes you’ve just gotta give credit to the other team. It just sucks when you can’t play no more. It really sucks.”

C David Andrews

“It wasn’t good enough. And hats off to them. They played a really good game, and got behind early and just too much. I don’t know.”

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