Expect Traffic Enforcement As Students Head Back to School in Massachusetts

School bus with stop sign and lights

With students back to school in Massachusetts, local police departments are stressing safety around school buses while stepping up enforcement of drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.

If a traffic enforcement sting came to your community, how many drivers would be stopped and cited for unsafe driving? Would you be among them?

We ask these questions as students head back to school across Massachusetts, in communities from Boston and Cambridge to Plymouth and Brockton to Worcester and Springfield.

Police departments across the state have set up traffic enforcement over the past few weeks, focusing on drivers who are not stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks and school buses. A few of the communities include New Bedford, Attleboro and South Boston.

In South Boston, the surveillance followed the tragic death of a 2-year-old in a traffic crash. The child was being pushed in a stroller on the sidewalk, when a van and car collided. The van plowed onto the sidewalk, injuring and ultimately killing the young boy. A day after the crash, the Boston Police Department and Massachusetts State Police set up a traffic enforcement initiative focusing on crosswalk enforcement, speeding and other unsafe driving behaviors. Within a few days, officers had issued approximately 500 citations for traffic violations. This is a very telling number, one Massachusetts drivers can’t ignore.

Breakstone, White & Gluck is a Boston law firm which specializes in personal injury, medical malpractice and car accident cases. Our firm is committed to safety for children, giving away over 20,000 bicycle helmets to children in Massachusetts through our Project KidSafe campaign. With experience representing clients who have been injured in pedestrian crosswalk accidents and other traffic crashes, we offer these tips for safe driving:

Slow down at crosswalks. Students who walk to school may have a crossing guard help them across the street. Always slow down as you approach crossing guards and children. Make eye contact with the crossing guard and assume you should stop. The crossing guard will wave you through when it’s safe to go.

But even when there is no crossing guard, drivers must stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk when there is a “Walk” or green signal. Other times, drivers have a responsibility to yield the right of way by slowing or stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalk. This includes times when pedestrians are in the crosswalk on the same side as the driver and when pedestrians are approaching from the other half of the lane and within 10 feet. There is a $200 fine for crosswalk violations in Massachusetts.

The best thing to do is approach crosswalks slowly and stop if you see anyone even near the entrance of the crosswalk. If you can, make eye contact with them, then wave for them to go. Depending on whether other cars stop, they may not be able to immediately cross. You may need to be patient for a few moments.

M.G.L. c.89 § 11 is the law governing pedestrian rights in crosswalks in Massachusetts. Read more about the law.

Drive slowly. Travel slowly near crosswalks and school zones. In Massachusetts, the speed limit in school zones is 20 mph. Many other communities have lowered their default speed limits to 25 mph, which means this is the speed limit unless you are on a street posted otherwise.

This makes good sense. According to the City of Boston’s Vision Zero, pedestrians have a 20 percent chance of dying when hit by a driver traveling at 30 mph. Reduce the same driver’s speed to 25 mph and the risk drops to 12 percent.

As a driver, driving slowly can save lives. It will also save you a speeding ticket. There is a $105 fine for speeding in Massachusetts. The fine is greater if drivers are caught traveling more than 10 mph over the speed limit.

Stop for school buses. Stop when school buses stop and flash lights to let children on or off. A father in Gilford, New Hampshire recently posted an upsetting video to social media, showing a car nearly hitting his son who was walking toward a school bus. The car never even stopped. Local police are trying to identify the driver but the father said his main goal now is to raise awareness that drivers must stop for buses.

In Massachusetts, drivers are required to stop when school buses stop and flash their lights to let children on or off. They must stay 100 feet away from the bus. Failure to stop for a school bus can result in a $250 fine for the first offense. For the second offense, the fine rises to $1,000 and a driver’s license can be suspended for six months. Third and subsequent offenses can result in a loss of license for a year and up to $2,000 in fines. More on the law in Massachusetts.

If anyone is injured as a result of your negligence, a citation can be used as proof of your negligence if you are facing a civil case. Read more about liability in school zone and school bus accidents.

Obey traffic laws. Take extra care to follow traffic lights in busy areas and school zones. Always stop for red lights and use caution when turning at intersections. Watch for pedestrians in and near crosswalks and for bicyclists who may be turning.

Limit cell phone use and distractions. Before you drive, turn your cell phone off and set it in the backseat. Eating, drinking coffee, putting on make up and talking to passengers can also be highly distracting. Keep conversation to a minimum when driving, especially during commuting hours near schools. Conversations never get resolved behind the wheel. But they can lead to distracted driving car crashes, which can seriously injure a child.

About Breakstone, White & Gluck
Breakstone, White & Gluck has over 100 years combined experience representing those who have been injured by pedestrian car accidents. We represent clients in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Quincy, Randolph, Arlington, Lexington and other communities. If you have been injured, our lawyers have the experience, expertise and resources to represent your best interests and negotiate a top financial result for you.

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