Look for the Massachusetts License Plate

When a driver causes a crash, they have a legal responsibility to stop and provide you or the victim with their Massachusetts driver’s license, vehicle registration and license plate number.

Sadly, many drivers keep going. National figures show 24 percent of all 2021 pedestrian accidents were hit-and-run crashes. These drivers take off with the important information a victim needs to pursue a full insurance claim and compensation for their medical expenses and financial losses in recovery.

What can you do? Look for the Massachusetts license plate. In most cases, the person injured will not have a chance to look. But witnesses may be able to catch this information and make a real difference.

Research has found people who see a license plate for three or fewer seconds can remember an average of 3.5 characters. That memory quickly fades. If you witnessed a crash, the best way you can help is by:

  • Writing down the license plate number.
  • Taking a cell phone photo of the license plate number.
  • Using your phone to make a voice note of the license plate number.
  • Taking note of a partial plate number.

Breaking Down the Massachusetts License Plate

Before your next drive, take a closer look at the Massachusetts license plate so you know what to expect.

First, a bit of history: Massachusetts was the first state to issue a motor vehicle license plate back in 1903. Starting with “1,” the state issued more than 3,000 plates in the first year, according to the state library archives. Today, license plates are made at the Massachusetts Correctional Institute – MCI Cedar Junction.

Massachusetts license plates have a maximum of six characters, a combination of letters and numbers.

But your first thought about Massachusetts license plates may be the open road and, “The Spirit of America,” from the popular 1980s tourism campaign.

Not all Massachusetts license plates carry this slogan across the bottom. The state also issues passenger normal plates with a white background and green lettering, according to the Registry of Motor Vehicles Passenger Plate Manual.

Massachusetts Passenger Plates. Source: Page 4 of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles Passenger Plate Manual

Here are a few basics:

  • All vehicles registered in Massachusetts should have a front and back license plate.
  • Like street signs, license plates are designed to reflect under headlights.
  • Close up, you can see license plates are marked with the year and month of registration along the top.
  • You can also see the “Strand of DNA,” in this WGBH news video.

Massachusetts Vanity and Specialty Plates

A few license plates break away from the traditional in Massachusetts and may be a little easier to remember. The RMV offers vanity plates. For an extra fee, you can choose two to six characters of your choice. The state maintains discretion over appropriate combinations.

The state also offers more than three dozen specialty license plates, including the Boston Red Sox design and charity plates. Specialty plates are unique. For example, these may have two letters vertical, followed by the numbers.

Cape Cod & Islands specialty plate. Source: Massachusetts Passenger Plate Manual.

Capturing License Plates and Car Accidents on Video

When a driver flees, a vehicle, crash and license plate may still be accessible if captured on camera. There are a number of potential sources for video. The search and negotiation for video must begin immediately after a car crash.

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our attorneys have extensive experience in the area of video evidence. We are committed to locating video early to provide our clients with the most favorable position in negotiations with insurers.

From Our Experience: Negotiating for Video Evidence for One Client

One of our attorneys represented the family of a woman who was struck and killed in a pedestrian accident near a supermarket in the Boston area.

This was a devastating experience, one that became more painful as our attorney investigated. There were no witnesses in the early morning car accident, except for the driver, who remained on the scene, but was not forthcoming with police officers about the details of what happened.

Our attorney learned the supermarket’s security team was in possession of video surveillance, which was good news.

However, the security team was reluctant to release the video. Our attorney worked with a commitment to preserve and recover the video evidence for the victim’s family. When he did, the video proved to be powerful evidence that showed the driver’s negligence.

Read more about this pedestrian accident case on our website.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Car Accident Lawyers

With more than 100 years combined experience, Breakstone, White & Gluck is known for our results for victims of car crashes and pedestrian accidents in Massachusetts. For a free legal consultation with one of our partners, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or reach out using our contact form.

Are You Packing Unsafe Children’s Products on Your Summer Vacation?

Are you packing your family up for the beach and thinking, “Why is this stroller so heavy?” If so, you should also ask, “Is this stroller safe?”

Companies have a duty to design and build safe products. When they learn of potential dangers associated with their product, the public expects safety warnings through a recall and corrective action.

One watchdog group says regulators and companies are failing the public by not sharing product recall information early or widely enough to prevent injuries.

In 2022, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) waited an average of 16 incidents before a recall was issued, according to Kids In Danger, which released a special report, “Hidden Hazards: 2022 Children’s Product Recalls,” earlier this year.

Sharing recall information should be easier with social media. But you are missing a lot in your news feed. The CPSC only posted updates on 42 percent of children’s product recalls and injuries on Facebook last year, according to Kids In Danger.

The other part of this story is low product correction rates. According to Kids In Danger, CPSC records show an average of 25 percent corrected products on 2021 recalls. But the agency only provided the watchdog data on 11 of 64 requests.

Protect your family from defective products and injuries. Do a visual check of your children’s products, such as strollers, car seats and sleepers, with each use. Then, make a point to inspect your children’s products a few times each year and also check for product recalls by visiting www.cpsc.gov. Check before you travel, when you are already packing up your belongings.

2022 Saw Highest Number of Children’s Product Recalls Since 2013

From Peloton to baby swings, the CPSC announced 293 product recalls last year, a 33 percent rise over 2021.

This included 100 recalls for children’s products, the most since 2013, according to Kids in Danger. About a third of these recalls fell into the toy category. Many of these products contained small parts and posed a choking hazard.

While the number of children’s products recalls went up last year, there was a decline in the total number of product units involved in these recalls. This came as the CPSC moved away from announcing recalls of infant sleepers in 2021. Last year, the agency announced more recalls of children’s products with excessive lead levels and clothing that failed to meet federal flammability guidelines.

Watch for 2022 Children’s Product Recalls

There were four deaths associated with children’s product recalls in 2022.

  • Wall-Mounted Basketball Nets. The CPSC announced the recall of 18,000 Goalsetter mounted basketball goals last October, in the wake of four reports of the product detaching from the walls. The announcement also revealed chilling news: a 14-year-old boy had died when the product fell on him in 2018.
  • Dangerous Weighted Blankets. Check if your children are using recalled blankets. There is a good chance they are if you shop at Target. The retailer recalled the Pillowfort Weighted Blankets in December 2022, several months after two young girls became entrapped in a blanket cover and died in North Carolina. These were children’s blankets, with some featuring unicorn and constellation patterns.
  • 4Moms MamaRoo Baby Swing. After a 10-month old’s death, the CPSC announced the recall of two million MamaRoo swings and 220,000 RockaRoo swings last August. The announcement reported the restraint straps posed potential entanglement and strangulation hazards.

Products Involved in Injuries

Kids In Danger also highlighted other children’s product recalls associated with high numbers of injuries. These included:

  • Huffy Corporation Blue’s Clues Foot to Floor Ride-on Toys – 18 injuries
  • Pacific Igniter and Pacific Bubble Pop 20” Kids’ Bicycles – 10 injuries
  • Mockingbird Single-to-Double Strollers – 8 injuries
  • HD Premier DigitDots Magnetic Balls – 4 injuries

As You Pack: Products to Double Check

Check for Stroller Recalls. After you inspect your stroller yourself, check the CPSC website for stroller recalls.

Are You Packing Unsafe Children’s Products on Your Summer Vacation?If your stroller is recalled, stop using it or request the company’s repair kit if that’s an option. Be aware that strollers can have defects causing injury to children riding, but also to parents and others. Last year, the UPPAbaby jogging stroller was recalled. At that time, the public learned a young child – who wasn’t riding in the stroller – had suffered the tragedy of a finger amputation because of defective stroller parts.

Checked for Baby Sleep Product and Lounger Recalls.

The Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play sleeper recall has changed a great deal for families since April 2019, including family vacation. Families should purchase infant sleepers which follow the new federal safety standard approved in 2021.

But the CPSC has not issued safety rules for infant loungers, according to a recent NBC News report. Parents should be aware that in 2021, The Boppy Company recalled 3.3 million of its popular Boppy newborn loungers because of the risk that a child could roll into a position that obstructs their breathing. The recall came with the grave news that eight children had died while using the loungers. As you pack for vacation, be aware that some of these loungers may still be in circulation. Parents may also encounter other poorly made products which have similar hazards, but haven’t been recalled yet.

The safest approach is to pack your own stroller and baby furniture when you travel. This way you and your child are familiar with the products and know what to expect. While they have the best of intentions, avoid borrowing children’s products from friends and family. Pack what you bring with care, laying it outside of other luggage.

Check Scooters, Bicycles and Other Outdoor Products. Finally before we sign off, make sure to check for bike and scooter recalls before you travel.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Product Liability Attorneys

Breakstone, White & Gluck has extensive experience representing victims of defective products. When someone is injured by a defective product, there must be a full and prompt investigation to determine what happened and where along the supply chain this occurred. Many injuries result from defective design, manufacturing errors or failure to warn the consumer about a possible harm.

Learn more about our attorneys and their results for clients in product liability cases. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

Rest, Then Drive: Safety Reminders to Avoid Drowsy Driving This Memorial Day

Rest, Then Drive: Safety Reminders to Avoid Drowsy Driving This Memorial DayMore Americans are expected to travel this Memorial Day and this means more drivers should rest up for safety. Rest is a foundation, whether you are working, watching your children or cooking. Having enough rest is critical when you drive, helping you stay alert and aware.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports drowsy driving caused 633 traffic deaths in 2020, a 9 percent increase over 2019. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports drowsy driving is underreported and is actually involved in 16-20 percent of all police-reported vehicle crashes in the U.S.

Although drivers of any age can fall asleep or nod off, the National Sleep Foundation reports drivers age 16-25 are at the greatest risk.

When drivers become drowsy, they may be slower to react and unable to appreciate the conditions around them. Drivers may struggle to pay attention and keep their eyes open.

The National Safety Council reports two important points on the topic of drowsy driving. First, the council reports fatigued drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a crash. Second, driving after 20 hours without sleep can be equivalent to driving with a .08 blood alcohol level.

Study Shows Drowsy Drivers Recognize Fatigue – But Don’t Want to Take Breaks

In March, AAA reported most drivers in one study misread their fatigue levels and ignored opportunities to rest during a 3-hour drive at night. AAA concluded that drivers need to do a better self-evaluation of their own drowsiness and more education is needed to encourage drivers to act on early signs of drowsiness.

In this study, 90 drivers were asked to finish a 150-mile simulated night driving experiment. They were given the opportunity to stop every 20 minutes at simulated rest areas.

But most of the drivers didn’t stop. Drivers were given a financial incentive as motivation to finish the course as quickly as they could without causing a crash. The incentive was $50 for participating and an additional $1 for every minute drivers came in ahead of the 3-hour limit.

Researchers surveyed the drivers at rest areas, with a goal of finding out how the drivers felt and measure how often their eyes shut.

  • About half (49%) of all drivers finished the driving experiment without stopping for a break. Most of these drivers said they didn’t stop because they were tired.
    • 39% stopped for one break.
    • 11% of drivers took two breaks.
  • 75% of the drivers misread their fatigue level based on the study parameters. They called their fatigue low, but were actually showing symptoms of “moderately” or “severely drowsy.”
  • Even when drivers recognized their extreme drowsiness, they resisted 75 percent of the opportunities to take a break.

Safety Tips for Your Memorial Day Travel

Whether you’re traveling to Boston or away for the holiday weekend, Breakstone, White & Gluck wants you to be safe.

  • Beat the Holiday Rush. AAA forecasts Friday, May 26thwill be the peak travel day. Traffic is expected to be lighter on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Stay on Your Normal Schedule. Try to drive during hours when you are normally awake. This is a safe approach for the Memorial Day weekend, but also other times. The NHTSA reports drowsy driving crashes often occur between midnight and 6 a.m. or in the late afternoon. These are times our circadian rhythms – our internal clocks – may tell us it’s time to sleep or rest. The bottom line is you want to stay on your schedule as much as you can.
  • Be Aware of Your Fatigue. Be aware of all the factors that contribute to fatigue. You may be suffering from sleep deprivation or you could be physically exhausted from a change in your routine (such as having to get up early for a special work assignment or having to drive late at night). Then there are devices. Follow recommendations for good sleep, such as avoid looking at bright screens in the hours before bed.
  • Take a Break. Schedule a break every two hours or 100 miles. Plan your stops before you leave and stick to your schedule so you stay alert.
  • Ride Safer With a Passenger. If you are traveling a long distance, take turns driving. Ask your passenger to install the Massachusetts 511 app and check travel updates for you.
  • Limit Cell Phone Use. If you check your cell phone, do so quickly when you stop to rest. Your goal is to stay rested; you can answer your texts and emails when you reach your destination.
  • Slow Down Near Pedestrians and Cyclists. After a long ride, you may just want to reach your destination. But slow down and watch for pedestrians and bicyclists as you drive off the highway and onto local roads. This is an important transition and if you are exhausted, this may be a moment to take a break. Remember, even if you visit the same community each year, the pace of pedestrians and cyclists may be different this year.

If you do sustain injuries in a car accident this holiday, our Boston injury attorneys will be here to help.

Free Legal Consultation – Contact a Boston Personal Injury Lawyer

Founded in 1992, Breakstone, White & Gluck specializes in personal injury law and provides experienced representation to those injured by negligent or reckless driving in Massachusetts. If you have been injured, consult our attorneys and learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

Driving Safely Near Cyclists in Intersections and Bike Boxes in Boston

Driving Safely Near Cyclists in Intersections and Bike Boxes in Boston

With the warm weather, more cyclists are back out in Massachusetts. As a driver, you may easily see the cyclist in front of you at the intersection and give them extra room. But are you ready for the cyclist who approaches from behind? And what about all the new bike lanes?

As more cyclists return to the road, this is a good time to think about how you can travel safely near them in intersections.

Take a Closer Look at Intersections

Take a closer look at the intersections you travel through. Check the signage, traffic lines, bike lanes and other pavement markings. You may notice some of the pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly improvements communities have made since the pandemic. Certain intersections now have bright green bike boxes or bike lanes crossing intersections. This is the case in Boston, in the area of Staniford and Merrimac streets.

If you see anything new or have questions, ask your local police department or town hall. Another resource is the Massachusetts Driver’s Manual.

Then stay tuned. You may see a few more traffic signs in the near future. On April 1, 2023, a new Massachusetts law took effect, establishing that drivers must leave four feet for safety when passing cyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

Where to Expect Cyclists in Intersections

Think about how cyclists approach intersections. Many cyclists will use bike lanes if these are available, but under Massachusetts law, cyclists can also travel into the traffic lane with vehicles. Cyclists can ride on their own or up to two abreast.

Drivers have a responsibility to look for cyclists. Make a point to check front, back, right and left as you wait out the traffic lights. When you look back, make a point to actually look. Don’t just use your vehicle’s technology. Use your rearview mirror and turn to check your blindspot over your shoulder.

Learn About Bike Boxes

Source: Massachusetts Driver’s Manual

Certain intersections in Massachusetts now make use of the green bike boxes. These are designated spaces for cyclists to wait between cars and traffic lights at intersections. The goal is to make cyclists more visible to drivers and let them get out first when the light changes.

Cyclists can use the bike box to position themselves for left-hand turns. Cyclists who are turning right or traveling straight should stay right in the bike lane.

Cyclists may or may not use the bike boxes yet. But according to the state driver’s manual, drivers have a responsibility to stop before the green bike boxes at red lights, even if there are no cyclists out.

Where to Find Bike Boxes in Massachusetts

Bike boxes are in use in at least 20 U.S. cities, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).

But they are still relatively new to many cyclists and drivers in Massachusetts.

As of September 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) had only identified 91 bike boxes in use across the state.

You can find some of these bike boxes in Brookline, Boston, Cambridge and Somerville.

MassDOT also shared results from its 5-year study into the effectiveness of bike boxes. Researchers investigated traffic conditions at 11 intersections in Boston and Somerville.

While the data very was limited, researchers attributed the majority of bike crashes to motorists and bicyclists who did not comply with the bike box regulations.

Researchers reported roughly 60 percent of the bike crashes at intersections occurred when cyclists ran through red lights or drivers failed to yield when making left turns.

Another point was on right-hook crashes. Researchers only reviewed one of these crashes, but said the limited data showed bike boxes may help prevent cyclists from suffering these injuries. They also noted that 72 percent of the intersections in the study utilized “No Right Turn on Red” signs.

MassDOT expects to complete a new study on bike boxes in February 2024.

Boston Bicycle Accident Lawyers – Free Legal Consultation

Breakstone, White & Gluck has over 100 years combined experience representing cyclists who have been seriously injured by bicycle accidents and dooring incidents. If you have been injured, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck and learn your legal rights. We offer a free legal consultation.

April Is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Massachusetts has banned drivers from texting, emailing and holding a phone for more than three years now. But look out your window. Many drivers are still picking up, typing or scrolling. Some are getting more advanced with video chat.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, an opportunity to refocus, set down your phone and pay attention to traffic conditions. For all the warnings, drivers are still giving into distractions at a high rate, with serious consequences. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 3,142 people were killed, and as many as 324,652 more people were injured in distracted driving crashes in 2020 alone.

This month is about awareness, but also enforcement. In recent years, Massachusetts police departments have received federal funding to conduct extra safety patrols. Many drivers have learned awareness the hard way during Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Massachusetts Drivers Are Engaging in Distracted Driving and Getting Caught During Enforcement Periods

In 2021, Massachusetts police issued 14,000 more citations than in 2020

How many Massachusetts drivers are engaging in distracted driving? Only the drivers know.

What we know is Massachusetts had a hard-to-enforce texting while driving ban. Then the Massachusetts hands-free law took effect on Feb. 23, 2020.

During 2020, more than 29,600 people were cited for distracted driving, according to a 2022 Mass. Department of Transportation presentation. Police issued more than 44,300 distracted driving citations in 2021 – up more than 14,000 citations from 2020.

This escalated even more in 2022. State officials provided an update in September 2022 and said compared to 2021, Massachusetts had recorded an 85+ percent increase in distracted driving citations during the first two-thirds of 2022. State officials say April saw the most distracted driving citations (more than 12,000) during the first eight months of 2022, more than twice that in May, which came in second.

As a driver, you want to put your cell phone down for safety. The last thing you want is the regret of causing someone a serious injury.

Drivers Admit to Cell Phone Use and Acknowledge the Safety Risks

What becomes difficult to reconcile is many drivers acknowledge the safety risks of cell phone use/texting while driving. According to the AAA Traffic Culture Index Survey, 92 percent of drivers said they believe texting or emailing while driving is very or extremely dangerous.

At the same time, 26 percent of the drivers admitted to sending a text or email while driving in the month before the survey. Even more drivers – 39 percent – admitted to reading a text or email.

Distracted Driving Can Cost You More Than You Think

However, you should also think about your auto insurance policy.

If you violate the Massachusetts hands-free law, the penalties are a $100 fine for the first offense. There is a $250 fine for the second offense (and a mandatory distracted driving education course).

Fines and penalties are more serious for the third and subsequent offenses. There is a $500 fine, a mandatory distracted driving program and you will receive an insurance surcharge. A surcharge could raise your auto insurance premium, and this could impact your insurance for years.

How Many Apps Do You Have on Your Cell Phone?

The Massachusetts hands-free law took effect in late February 2020. With the hands-free law, Massachusetts drivers are no longer allowed to use hand-held cell phones or electronic devices. Drivers are not allowed to touch devices for texting, emailing, apps, video or Internet use.

Drivers were urged to get ready for the hands-free law early, by purchasing dashboard mounts and setting up hands-free technology. But the pandemic was a major interruption and restricted our driving, while bringing big change to our digital lives.

Many of us are now carrying around cell phones with more mobile apps for all sorts of tools and services, from takeout food to pharmacies and other stores. The apps have many notifications and a variety of chirps. We are also logging more hours on social media and email from our phones.

Then there are video games. After the pandemic, three-quarters of all players are now over 18 years old, with an average age of 33, according to a 2022 industry study. Most players – 70 percent – said they prefer playing on smart phones, which allow them to take all sorts of games – from Wordle to Super Mario Bros. to Solitaire on the go.

Video chat is another concern. In Massachusetts, drivers are not allowed to touch cell phones, but they can mount electronic devices and access a number of digital tools, including chat tools.

We have seen the dangers of video chat tools in Massachusetts. In October 2021, a Northampton cyclist was tragically hit and killed by a young driver who police allege had been chatting with a friend on the FaceTime app.

A Massachusetts lawmaker quickly acted after this, proposing an amendment to the state’s hands-free law that would also ban video broadcasting and streaming. The legislation – called “Charlie’s Law” – would prohibit video recording or broadcasting while driving, which would have included vlogging and streaming activities. The president of the Safe Roads Alliance voiced support for the measure, saying driving habits had worsened during the pandemic and that “the car is no place for Zoom meetings, FaceTime, or vlogging.”

There was at least one other fatal accident involving the FaceTime app that year. In April 2021, a 30-year-old man was driving down Highway 62 in Minnesota while talking to his wife on the FaceTime app, according to a news report. He told police his phone was mounted and he was not looking at the device when he struck another driver’s car. This was a traumatic crash, pushing the second vehicle on its side and killing the driver. Two other vehicles were also pulled into this accident.

Across the U.S., 24 states have passed hands-free driving laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). All six New England states have hands-free driving laws (Massachusetts was the last of the New England states).

But these laws have potential limits. As of December 2021, just four U.S. states had passed laws that specifically mention a ban on recording and broadcasting. These states included Georgia, Arizona, Tennessee and Utah.

Georgia’s law took effect in July 2018. According to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, the law does not allow drivers to watch videos, unless for navigation. Drivers are not allowed to record video (except for continuously running dashcams). The dashcam exception was also part of the proposed “Charlie’s Law” in Massachusetts.

The Georgia hands-free law also touches on the use of music streaming apps. Drivers can only activate music streaming apps when parked.

Re-Commit to a Cell Phone Safety Plan

  • Plan your ride. Gone are the days when you can just get in your car and start driving. Every time you get in your car, make a decision about your cell phone. You can secure your phone in the back seat or trunk. Or you can mount your phone and connect to hands-free technology.
  • Call before you drive. Check in with your family members, children or friends before you drive. Explain that you will be driving and will be unavailable to talk or text. If you have a child, tend to their needs before you drive, whether they need to talk for a few minutes or you need to arrange their ride home from sports practice.
  • Never use video while driving. Never use video chat tools or watch video content while driving. These take your focus off the road – or at least put more visuals in your focus. If you want content, look for audio, such as audio books or music (but remember you are not allowed to touch your cell phone while listening).
  • Park before you text. If you feel you have to send a text from your phone, pull over and park in a safe location first. Never stop on the shoulder of the road. Find a parking lot.
  • No social scrolling. Social media has a strong pull. Whether you glance for a moment or get caught up for several minutes, you put yourself, your passengers and others in danger.
  • Check your digital well-being. Most phones have a digital well-being check tool. Check how many hours you have logged today and over the past week. It may be more than you realize and it may be causing you fatigue.

In addition, the more time you spend on your cell phone, the harder it can be to step away in the car.

Make a plan to cut down your cell phone time – even just for a few days. Look at your apps. Consider taking a few social media apps off your phone. Instead, use these apps on your tablet at home.

About Breakstone, White & Gluck

With over 100 years combined experience, Breakstone, White & Gluck specializes in personal injury law and represents those injured in car accidents in Boston and across Massachusetts. Our car accident attorneys are experts in Massachusetts insurance laws and we are committed to helping our clients make their best physical, emotional and financial recovery.

If you have been injured, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 617-723-7676 or 800-379-1244 or use our contact form.

New Safety Campaign Encourages Drivers to Stop Deadly Trend of High-Speed Accidents

Fatal speed-related car crash
Fatal speed-related car crash

Speed-related crashes claimed 17 more percent more lives during 2020, according to the NHTSA.

Many of us have resumed our routines or transitioned to a new normal after the pandemic. Except in our cars. Early in the pandemic, drivers began a dangerous trend of driving less and speeding more into open roads, resulting in very serious crashes and injuries.

This past summer, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a new public outreach campaign to address the growing danger of speed-related accidents.

In this blog, we share a few statistics from the NHTSA’s “Speeding Wrecks Lives” campaign to encourage awareness about the consequences of speeding here in Massachusetts.

The impact of speeding during the pandemic:

  • More than 11,000 people were killed by speeding crashes in 2020, a 17 percent increase from 2019.
  • Overall, speeding caused 29 percent of all traffic deaths in 2020.
  • Younger drivers age 18-44 were behind the wheel in 25 percent of fatal speed-related crashes.
  • Younger male drivers between the ages of 15 and 24 were involved in many of these crashes.

Another critical benchmark involves young children. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports speed-related deaths of pedestrians younger than 15 more than doubled between 2018 and 2020.

In June, the State House News Service reported that Massachusetts reached an 11-year high in traffic deaths during 2021. In the article, a Massachusetts DOT board member specifically mentioned the impact of speeding as well as aggressive driving since the pandemic began.

Fatal Pedestrian Crashes Are More Likely At Higher Speeds

The Federal Highway Administration has long stressed the importance of managing speeds on the roads, citing data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The data shows pedestrians have a much higher chance of survival when hit in car crashes at lower speeds.

When a pedestrian is hit by a car traveling 23 mph, they have a 10 percent chance of death, compared to a 50 percent chance of death when a car is traveling 42 mph. Pedestrians are 90 percent more likely to die when hit by a car traveling 58 mph.

Why Speeding is So Dangerous

With this new campaign, the NHTSA continues to educate the public on the specific hazards of high-speed accidents.

Drivers who speed are more likely to lose control of their steering. Even when the driver sees a pedestrian or identifies a potential traffic hazard, they may not have time to stop or change lanes in time if they are speeding. Drivers have more control when they travel at lower speeds and really take time to look for pedestrians and cyclists. When a driver looks, this naturally slows them down and raises their awareness of road conditions. With more pedestrians and cyclists out than ever, drivers should really look, whether they are traveling through downtown areas, school zones or quiet back roads.

When drivers disregard the speed limit, they may also let their guard down in other ways. Speeding can be a springboard for drivers to engage in aggressive driving and road rage.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Auto Accident Lawyers

With more than 125 years combined experience, Breakstone, White & Gluck has extensive experience representing those injured in car accidents, pedestrian crashes and bicycle collisions in Massachusetts. We provide experienced and aggressive representation throughout all stages of motor vehicle accident claims, from investigation to trial and appeal if necessary.

If you have been injured by negligent driving, contact our lawyers for a free legal consultation at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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Tesla Has Highest Number of Crashes Involving Self-Driving Cars, Driver-Assist Systems, New Data Shows

Inside a Self-Driving Car
Inside a Self-Driving Car

New data shows self-driving cars and driver-assisted systems were involved in hundreds of car accidents over a 10-month period. Tesla vehicles were tied to 70 percent of these car crashes.

Days after expanding its Tesla safety investigation, the federal government has released 10 months of data showing nearly 400 crashes involving self-driving and driver-assisted vehicles, according to The New York Times. Tesla vehicles were involved in 70 percent of the self-driving and driver-assisted crashes.

Of 392 crashes, 273 involved Tesla vehicles operating with Autopilot, Full Self Driving or related features, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Six people were killed while others were injured. The crashes ranged from serious collisions to fender benders or smaller incidents.

  • Honda vehicles were involved in 90 incidents.
  • Waymo, a driverless taxi service in Arizona, was involved in 62 crashes. The service is owned by Google’s parent company.
  • The G.M. Cruise taxi service was linked to 23 accidents in the San Francisco area.
  • Subaru reported 10 crashes; Ford, G.M., BMW, Volkswagen, Toyota and Porsche each reported 5 or fewer.

Last year, the NHTSA issued an order requiring automakers to report car accidents involving vehicles with driver-assist systems or fully-automated vehicles being tested on public roads. This is the first data release under the order and an NHTSA official cautioned the public not to make conclusions yet.

The data covers just 10 months, but provides no context on the total number of vehicles each manufacturer has on the road with automated technologies.

Tesla has about 830,000 vehicles with driver-assisted technologies on the road, according to The New York Times. But other companies, such as Ford and GM, also have technologies that allow hands-free driving in certain situations. They have sold fewer models.

In addition, automakers have long sold cars, trucks and SUVs with some level of driver-assist systems, such as cruise control or automatic braking when traffic ahead slows. With this data release, the NHTSA said it plans to keep collecting data on auto crashes involving these features and technologies, as a guide for future safety requirements.

NHTSA Expands Investigation of Tesla Autopilot Feature

The data comes as the NHTSA investigates years of car crash reports involving Tesla’s Autopilot feature. On June 9, the agency announced it was expanding the probe to include all four Tesla cars – Model S, Model X, Model 3 and Model Y – from 2014 and 2021, according to The New York Times.

The agency said it was upgrading its preliminary evaluation to an engineering analysis, a step required before a safety recall, according to The New York Times. The NHTSA has set a one-year timetable for the review.

The Texas-based company designs the world’s most popular luxury vehicles, many of which use the Autopilot technology to perform key aspects of driving, such as steering, accelerating and braking automatically within the lane. The NHTSA is investigating whether the Autopilot fails to prevent drivers from diverting their attention from the road and engaging in other unsafe behaviors.

This wouldn’t be the first Tesla recall. In November 2021, Tesla recalled almost 12,000 vehicles from its Full Self Driving beta test. This was a version of Autopilot designed for city driving. The company reported a software update could unexpectedly activate a vehicle’s emergency brakes.

Tesla Self-Driving Crash and Sleeping Driver Report in Massachusetts

Tesla crashes have made headlines across the country.

There was a bizarre story on the sleeping driver traveling in a Tesla vehicle on the MassPike back in 2019. A driver captured video of another driver and his passenger traveling in a Tesla vehicle in the next lane. Both were in a heavy sleep.

State Police called the behavior “extremely dangerous” and said the driver would be subject to criminal charges if they ever identified and located him. That never happened.

But State Police caught the driver in a Tesla self-driving crash in West Bridgewater in 2020.

According to news reports, a state trooper pulled over a college student in an SUV on Route 24 in West Bridgewater. A Tesla driver slammed into the trooper’s cruiser, then hit the 21-year-old’s vehicle as she reached for her registration. The driver was reportedly operating in Tesla’s Autopilot mode, according to a NBC Boston report. He was charged with negligent operation.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Car Accident Lawyers

Breakstone, White & Gluck has over 125 years of combined experience successfully obtaining record recoveries for clients injured by negligent driving. Our attorneys are experienced in handling cases involving car accidents and commercial truck crashes across Massachusetts. We represent clients at all stages of motor vehicle accident cases, from insurance claims through to trial and appeal, if necessary.

For a free legal consultation, call 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

U.S. Traffic Deaths Reached a 16-Year High in 2021, Early Estimates Show

Driver sits near two-car accident scene

Driver sits near two-car accident sceneTraffic fatalities rose dramatically last year as we worked to emerge from COVID-19. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released early estimates showing 42,915 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2021, up 10.5 percent from 2020. In Massachusetts, early estimates show a 20 percent increase.

There were more vehicles on the road last year. The NHTSA reported an 11 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled in 2021 compared to 2020. There was only a slight decline in the fatality rate per mile traveled.

But the projection shows the highest number of traffic fatalities since 2005 – and the largest annual increase in traffic deaths since 1975, when the federal traffic data system began. Across the board, drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists all faced more treacherous conditions than before the pandemic, even as many traveled less.

Rise in Pedestrian and Bicycle Fatalities

Many of us have been walking more since the pandemic began. It’s nice to just step outside and start getting some exercise. However, the walk can be very dangerous. Traffic may look lighter at times. Open roads seem to encourage drivers to speed and traffic patterns are still highly irregular.

Nationwide, pedestrian traffic deaths increased 13 percent in 2021, while fatal bicycle accidents climbed 5 percent. There was also a 9 percent increase in motorcycle accident fatalities.

Speed-Related Crashes Up 5 Percent

The NHTSA reports a 5 percent rise in traffic fatalities caused by speed-related crashes in 2021. This follows a dangerous 17 percent jump from 2019 to 2020. Overall, speeding is responsible for more fatal crashes now than before the pandemic.

There were also more fatalities in multi-vehicle crashes last year, as vehicles traveled more miles. These fatalities climbed 16 percent in 2021. There was a rise from March to August 2021, then November to December. April 2021 saw the greatest increase in fatalities in multi-vehicle crashes.

Alcohol-Related Crashes Rise

One of the most troubling trends of the pandemic was the rise in drunk driving and injuries. In 2020, there was a 16 percent rise in traffic fatalities stemming from police-reported, alcohol-involvement crashes. This came as workers and students stayed home. In 2021, this trend continued, with an estimated 5 percent increase in these crashes.

More Traffic Deaths Among Seniors

There were fewer traffic fatalities among older Americans in 2020 as more people stayed home or suffered from COVID-19. But last year, as senior citizens (those 65 and older) got back out, there was a 14 percent increase among traffic fatalities.

13 Percent Increase in Traffic Fatalities Involving at Least One Large Truck

In 2021, there was a 13 percent increase in fatalities in crashes involving at least one large truck (one with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 lbs). The NHTSA counts both commercial and non-commercial vehicles.

Trucking activity has drastically changed since the start of the pandemic. More of us are ordering groceries, clothing and household supplies from the convenience of our homes and we may see large trucks and delivery vans several times a day.

The NHTSA reports traffic fatalities in crashes involving at least one large truck increased from April to July 2021 and then again from November to December 2021.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Car Accident Lawyers

Founded in 1992, Breakstone, White & Gluck has been consistently recognized for our results for our clients. Our personal injury attorneys provide experienced and aggressive representation to those injured in car accidents, pedestrian accidents and motorcycle crashes across Massachusetts.

If you or a loved one have been injured by another driver’s negligence, learn your legal rights for seeking compensation for your recovery. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck and at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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New Bike Lanes Help, But Massachusetts Drivers Must Still Slow Down and Watch for Cyclists

Bicycle lane accident
Boston bicycle lane with broken flexipost on Cambridge Street

Flexipost down on bike lane at Center Plaza, across from Boston City Hall.

As COVID-19 kept many of us home, Boston and nearby cities built out an impressive 35 miles of new bike lanes in 2020 and 2021, according to a news report.

But, while encouraging safety, bike lanes alone cannot prevent cycling accidents. Drivers still have a responsibility to slow down, travel safely in their lane and use extra caution, especially as they get to know the new infrastructure.

Consider that bike lanes must be a minimum of 5 feet wide under state highway standards. In Boston, the city’s transportation department works to build at least 6 feet wide in areas with high bike traffic and 6 to 7 feet in areas with heavy parking turnover. Then factor in parking, traffic and bus lanes and you have more than covered the widest roads.

Finding New Bike Lanes in Boston, Cambridge and Nearby Cities

If you travel into Boston or Cambridge, you will find several miles of new bike lanes, including both conventional and protected bike lanes.

Conventional bike lanes – also called unprotected bike lanes – are flat lanes which create a designated lane for cyclists using paint and signage. Protected bike lanes are designed to add another layer of safety. These are usually more visible and use physical barriers – such as flexiposts or curbing – to separate cyclists from drivers.

During the pandemic, the City of Boston expanded its bike lane network with protected bike lanes on all roads around the Boston Public Garden. The city is now working to connect key stretches of bike lanes, including at the intersection of Beacon and Arlington streets near the west end of the Public Garden.

Beyond Boston and Cambridge, you can take a drive into Medford, Somerville, Newton or Brookline, among other communities, to see new bike lanes built during the pandemic. Somerville and Medford saw significant bike lane development along Route 28 and the Wellington Bridge, with funding from the state’s Shared Streets and Space Program.

Some of the new protected bike lanes are “quick-build” projects. Keep this in mind as you drive. Cities may now experiment and take flexiposts up and down as seasons and traffic volumes change.

How Boston Drivers Can Avoid Bike Lane Accidents

Now more than ever, it is critical to watch because there are more cyclists out. According to state figures, ridership is up more than 25 percent in many Massachusetts communities as we emerge from the pandemic.

Learn Where Cyclists Are Allowed to Ride

When driving, take a good look at the full road. You may initially notice the traffic lanes, intersections and stop signs. Many drivers, however, overlook the bike lanes, if the road even has them.

If you see bike lanes, consider these a guide. A cyclist may ride in the bike lane. But they may also have to move into the roadway at times to position themselves for a left turn or because the bike lane ends.

When the bike lane ends, a cyclist may choose to stay on the right side of the road or they may attempt to move into the traffic lane. Cyclists are allowed to ride up to two abreast in the traffic lane in Massachusetts. Many cyclists try to avoid this approach to avoid backing up traffic. But you will see this and it is important to give cyclists enough space to make safe decisions.

Drive Slowly

Maintaining a slow and safe speed near cyclists is critical. When you speed, you can easily cross over painted bike lanes or even flexiposts, and you leave yourself less time to respond if cyclists, pedestrians or other drivers make an unexpected move.

Open Car Doors Carefully

Drivers can injure cyclists and pedestrians even after they park. Drivers who open doors without checking, or leave a car door open as they get ready to get out, have caused many dooring accidents and serious injuries to cyclists in the Boston area.

At least 40 states – including Massachusetts – have recognized the danger of dooring and made this a traffic offense, according to the League of American Bicyclists. 

The Danger of Parking in Bike Lanes

It is also illegal for drivers to park in bike lanes in Massachusetts under M.G.L. c. 89, § 4D. Drivers have to remember bike lanes are travel lanes for cyclists. If you park in a bike lane and a cyclist is injured as a result, you may be fined by local police, just as you can be if you open a door into a cyclist’s path.

The cyclist could also file a claim against you and hold you financially responsible for their medical expenses, lost wages and other damages.

Distracted Driving Can Be Deadly Near Cyclists

As you drive, look how close you are to cyclists and the bike lane. There is little room for error and it is highly dangerous to pick up your cell phone for any reason. You could veer off the road and into the bike lane, then hit a cyclist. Use your best judgment and wait. Another factor to consider is pedestrians. Both you and the cyclist approaching have a duty to stop and yield to pedestrians at crosswalks and other situations. There is no room for distractions.

The tragedy is at least two cyclists have been killed in distracted driving accidents in Massachusetts since the start of the pandemic.

In August 2020, a driver was reportedly texting and collided into three cyclists traveling along Topsfield Road in Ipswich, according to the Salem News. One of the cyclists later died at a local hospital and police charged the driver.

The criminal case was ultimately resolved last month, when the driver pleaded guilty to negligent motor vehicle homicide, but avoided jail time. The driver’s criminal defense lawyer argued she had texted with a friend earlier about visiting Crane Beach, but just before the crash, she suffered from a gastrointestinal condition and this caused her to take her eyes off the road, leading to the crash.

In Northampton, another driver is facing criminal charges in connection with a fatal bike crash in October 2021. Police allege the driver was using the FaceTime app and ran a stop sign near Northampton High School, then fatally injured the cyclist, according to local news reports. Now, a state legislator is seeking to update the state’s hands-free driving law to specifically ban video broadcasting and vlogging while driving.

Watch for Cyclists and Turn Safely at Intersections

When you stop at an intersection, you may expect cyclists to pull up to your right in the bike lane. They may do so. However, they may also come up behind you or move into the traffic lane to turn left.

Continue to look around your vehicle as you wait at the intersection and use caution when you make right-hand turns. Check your mirrors and blindspot so you can avoid turning right into cyclists and causing injuries. These are called “right-hook” bicycle accidents and they have often been fatal in Boston.

Under Massachusetts law, drivers can be cited for overtaking and passing bicyclists to make a right turn, unless they can turn at a “safe distance” at a “speed that is reasonable and proper,” M.G.L. c 90 § 14. With so much activity at intersections, it is better to just wait for cyclists to turn safely.

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our attorneys have represented cyclists and families in wrongful death cases resulting from right hook bike crashes at intersections. These are painful experiences made worse because these accidents are preventable if drivers check their mirrors and blindspot for cyclists.

Operators of large trucks are responsible for many right-hook crashes. Truck companies can protect against injuries by providing drivers with proper training and upgrading equipment with sideguards and convex mirrors.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Bicycle Accident Lawyers

Breakstone, White & Gluck is a strong supporter of safe cycling in Massachusetts and has been recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as a Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Business.

With more than 100 years combined experience, our lawyers fight for the rights of those injured by negligence or wrongdoing in personal injury cases. We have extensive experience representing cyclists who have been injured by negligent driving in the Boston area and across Massachusetts.

If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, learn your legal rights. Call for a free legal consultation and our attorneys will review the facts of your case with you to help you determine if you have a potential claim against a driver to help you with your recovery. Do not hesitate to call; we are experienced at working with both cyclists and family members to address all your concerns and preserve your legal rights in the hours, days and months after a bike crash.

For a free legal consultation, call 800-379-1244 (toll-free) or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

Proposal to Strengthen Massachusetts Hands-Free Driving Law By Adding Ban on Recording and Broadcasting While Driving

Driving using a cell phone mounted to a vehicle dashboard
Driving using a cell phone mounted to a vehicle dashboard

Drivers are not allowed to pick up cell phones under the Massachusetts hands-free driving law, but can quickly tap the device for activation of hands-free mode or GPS.

A dangerous trend has emerged on our roads, cell phones and social media accounts, with the rise of drivers “vlogging,” live-streaming and making video phone calls. In a 2020 survey, more than 20 percent of drivers admitted to recording video on cell phones. This is more than double the response from 2015.

Now, after a cyclist’s tragic death, a local lawmaker is proposing Massachusetts update its hands-free driving law to ban both recording and broadcasting video while driving.

Nationwide, 48 states have banned texting while driving and 24 states have passed hands-free driving laws, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Massachusetts would join four other states which have banned recording and broadcasting as part of their hands-free laws, according to state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, who has proposed the legislation.

Sen. Comerford proposed “Charlie’s Law” in the wake of a cyclist’s death near Northampton High School in October 2021. A 23-year-old driver is accused of video chatting on the FaceTime app, then running past a stop sign and striking the cyclist in a fatal bike crash, according to local news reports. The driver now faces criminal charges, including negligent motor vehicle homicide. Meanwhile, state lawmakers held the first hearing on Charlie’s Law earlier this month.

Background on Massachusetts Distracted Driving Laws

Looking to prevent injuries and deaths in car accidents, Massachusetts passed a ban on texting while driving in 2010. After many years of debate, lawmakers reached agreement on a more comprehensive hands-free driving law in 2019.

The Massachusetts hands-free driving law took effect in early 2020 and drivers now face fines for violations, starting with $100 for the first offense.

For third and subsequent offenses, drivers face up to $500 in fines and an insurance surcharge. They must also attend a distracted driving education program.

Under the hands-free law, drivers are only allowed to touch mobile phones and electronic devices to quickly activate hands-free mode, when devices are mounted to a windshield, dashboard or center console. Drivers are still allowed to use voice-to-text commands and make phone calls so long as cell phones are properly mounted.

As it stands, the Massachusetts hands-free driving law does not specifically ban drivers from making video conference calls or vlogging activities, such as recording or live broadcasting video of one’s self while driving to post on social media sites. As long as cell phones are mounted, drivers are not violating the law.

Drivers may be cited or charged if police investigate a car crash and find they violated another traffic law, such as a marked lanes violation. But updating the hands-free law – which is a primary enforcement law – may allow police to stop and cite drivers they see using cell phone video features before a crash happens.

Sen. Comerford has proposed S. 2733, “An Act Prohibiting Video Recording or Broadcasting While Driving.” The bill proposes adding language to the existing law stating no operator shall record or broadcast video of themselves on a mobile device, with a few exceptions.

  • Drivers would still be allowed to record or broadcast video in an “emergency or exigent circumstance” or “when it is so clearly in the public interest as to override the public safety purpose of this sentence.”
  • Dash cams can still be used to record traffic conditions or passengers in a vehicle, but they must be mounted. This allows commercial drivers, Uber and Lyft drivers to continue recording passenger behavior.

More Than Twice As Many Drivers Admitted to Recording While Driving in 2020

In its 2021 Driving While Distracted study, State Farm Auto Insurance reported 22 percent of drivers admitted to recording behind the wheel in 2020, compared to 10 percent in 2015.

Younger drivers were more likely to engage in this behavior:

  • Nearly half – 44 percent – of drivers in the 18 to 29-year-old demographic admitted to recording video while driving.
  • More than a third of drivers age 30 to 39 admitted the same.

This was not the only increase. State Farm reported 89 percent of drivers – or nearly 9 out of 10 – admitted to engaging in one of the 14 distracted driving behaviors covered in its online survey.

One troubling note was most drivers in states which had passed hands-free driving said they were aware of laws, but one in five were not informed. Six percent of the drivers even said their state did not ban handheld cell phone use.

Contact Breakstone, White & Gluck For a Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury and Car Accident Attorneys

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston personal injury lawyers offer more than 100 years combined experience representing those injured by negligent and reckless driving. Our attorneys work with clients throughout the Boston area, including those who live and work in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Brookline, Arlington and Quincy.

If you have been injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, you may require medical care and have to miss time at work. You may have many questions. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or use our contact form. Our attorneys will review the facts of your case with you and help you determine whether you have a potential claim.