Articles Posted in Car Accidents

Massachusetts couple planning a safe summer road trip.

Planning is the key to a safe summer road trip.

By now, many of us are ready for a summer road trip. Maybe you cannot reach your first-choice destination due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Or maybe you are just taking it slow with a day-trip. Whatever your plan, we hope you can fit in some fun while practicing safety.

First, make sure your vehicle is ready. Check your vehicle’s systems. By taking some time now, you are less likely to breakdown or cause a car accident resulting in injury, motor vehicle damage and stress.

Check for Auto Recalls

Find your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Then, check the federal auto recall website, managed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). You can also sign up for email alerts from this page.

Each year, there are millions of auto recalls. Drivers are not always properly informed by manufacturers. Without any warning, drivers keep operating vehicles, increasing the risk for a malfunction. Be pro-active about checking on auto recalls.  The thorough database contains recalls up to 15 years back. One caveat is the database does not identify vehicles which were recalled but have now been repaired. 

Collect Your Owner’s Manual

Make sure you have your owner’s manual in your glove compartment, along with your motor vehicle registration and auto insurance information. 

Have Your Car Serviced

Before you travel:

  • Check your vehicle maintenance records
  • Schedule a tune-up, oil change or battery check as needed
  • Check when your car last had a tire rotation
  • Make sure your air conditioning system is properly working as well

If you have any questions, schedule an appointment with a mechanic or garage. 

Roadside Assistance

Purchase an auto club membership before you travel. Due to COVID-19, you may not be traveling as far as you wanted this year. You may just be day-tripping to Cape Cod. Still, anytime you travel on the highway, an auto membership is a valuable tool.

Stocking Up

The NHTSA advises drivers to stock up on essential supplies before you travel.

  • Cell phone and charger
  • Nonperishable food, drinking water and medications
  • Paper or printed maps (in case you lose cell phone coverage)
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlights
  • Flares and a white flag
  • Jumper cables
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Jack
  • Work gloves and extra clothing
  • Extra windshield washer fluid

Checking Inside the Car and Mirrors

Remember to check your seatbelts and car seats to make sure they are properly functioning. If you have a young child, they may have outgrown their car seat over the past few months. Replace car seats right away.

Check your mirrors. Your rearview and sideview mirrors should be securely in place to help you view your surroundings. If you have a back-up camera, make sure it works. If you don’t have a back-up camera and you have time, consider purchasing an add-on camera. Consumer Reports offers tips: “How to Add a Back-up Camera to Your Car.”

Travel Planning

Before you travel, check the weather and road conditions along your route. Familiarize yourself with the directions before you go. You may use a global positioning system. But when visiting new places, also consider printing travel maps or writing down notes, such as toll locations and rest stops. Write down key phone numbers, such as for hotels. Gather this in a folder or binder. 

Share your travel route with a loved one or friend. Keep an emergency contact’s information available, such as in your wallet or the password lock screen of your phone.

If you are traveling within Massachusetts, you can check traffic conditions on Mass511.com. Cape Cod travelers can check the Cape Cod Commission’s Real-Time Traffic Updates. This contains information about Cape Cod car accidents, road closures and construction projects.

Hands Free Cell Phone Systems

On April 1, 2020, the Massachusetts hands-free driving law took effect. Now, all six New England states ban texting while driving and handheld cell phone use. 

What you can do: If you want to use your cell phone, purchase Bluetooth and hands-free driving equipment before you travel. If you cannot GPS through Bluetooth or an in-vehicle system, you can purchase a cell phone mount for your dashboard.

Cell phone-related car accidents often ruin vacations while causing serious injuries. Our best advice is to focus on the road and set your cell phone aside. Enjoy the time with your family or friends. Check your messages at the end of the  day.

Children and Heatstroke

Children can suffer heatstroke when left alone in a vehicle. A child’s body temperature rises 3-5 times faster than an adult’s and injuries can happen quickly, according to the NHTSA.

Come up with a family plan for traveling this summer. Never leave your children alone in your car in parking lots, when you visit family and friends or any time you make quick stops. Your car is a powerful piece of machinery. Everyone in and out of the car together. Or if you have two adults, designate one your driver, who stays in your vehicle with your children and the air conditioning. Let the passenger get out and do your errands.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Car Crash Lawyers

Breakstone, White & Gluck and our Boston car accident attorneys fight for the rights of those injured by negligence and wrongdoing in Massachusetts. Our attorneys represent those injured across Massachusetts, from Boston and Cambridge to the North Shore and Quincy and the South Shore and Cape Cod.

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, learn your legal rights. Consult Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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45128146_sIt is frightening to watch a driver back up toward a child at play. At least 50 children are victims of backover accidents each week, according to KidsandCars.org. More than 70 percent of backover accidents involve young children and a parent or a relative. Many of these car accidents occur right in home driveways.

As traumatic as backover accidents are, many injuries are preventable. Drivers can recognize the safety risk and make use of technology. Families can communicate and plan. Involve friends and family who visit and park at your home in this conversation. Before they arrive, suggest a safe parking space.

As a Massachusetts driver, you can help prevent backover accidents through a combination of steps. You can use a back-up camera. Stay aware of your blind zone. Near children, the most effective prevention may be getting out and walking around your vehicle. Make sure you have a clear path of travel and if you don’t, be patient. Stay where you are for an extra few minutes until the children have gone back inside.

For Families:

Comings and Goings. Start by keeping your family together when someone arrives and departs. Keep children inside and let them wave to the driver from the window. If children are outside, an adult should be outside supervising them. Gather together on the front steps or a safe place. Hold on basketball, bikes or riding toys until the person leaves. It’s hard for a young child to resist chasing a ball.

Driveway Barriers. Parents can keep traffic cones in the shed. Put the cones out in your driveway when you are concerned or to block delivery drivers from pulling. You can also look into portable neon driveway fencing products.

For Drivers:

Walk Around the Vehicle. Even if drivers have a back-up camera, walk around your vehicle. Check underneath your vehicle and observe if a child or anyone is nearby or may move into your path of travel (such as a child riding a bike or someone pushing a shopping cart).

Park Consistently. If you are a parent or live near children, park your vehicle in the same place in your driveway or garage each day. Be consistent with your approach. Whether you pull in or back into your driveway or garage, make sure children are in a safe place. If you are a parent, keep children in the backseat if you back in. Come to a complete stop, turn and check on your children in the backseat, then get out of the vehicle together.

Large Vehicles. Trucks, SUVs, RVs and vans are more likely to cause backover crashes, according to NHTSA. The taller the vehicle, the greater the driver’s blind zone.

Blind Zone. The blind zone is the area behind a vehicle which a driver can’t see. Whatever vehicle you drive, learn about your blind zone. Consumer Reports found small sedans usually have a 12 foot blind zone for the average driver. Midsized SUVs have an 18-foot blind zone, while large SUVs have 19 feet. Pick-up trucks have the largest blind zone among the passenger vehicles – 24 feet.

Back-up Cameras. As of May 2018, all new passenger cars, trucks, vans and other vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds have to be outfitted with rearview monitoring technology, according to Edmunds.com. If you are driving an older vehicle, you can install a back-up camera on  your own – and it is an important tool which can save lives. Read “How to Add a Backup Camera to Your Car,” by Consumer Reports.

Bicycles and Pedestrians. Backover accidents can also injure adults, including cyclists and pedestrians. Look all around your vehicle before you pull out of a parking space. Be aware of different types of activities and movements in downtown and other business areas. When possible, avoid parking near crosswalks.

Parking Lot Crashes. In parking lots, pull into parking spaces whenever possible. Keep watch of pedestrians and shoppers when you pull out or back out of spaces. Set aside cell phones and do not drive when you are overfatigued.

Another note is right now, many Massachusetts grocery stores, retailers and restaurants are offering curbside pick-up services. While convenient, remember not every business is experienced with this. Drive into parking lots slowly and watch for curbside pick-up signs. If there are no signs, find a parking space and call the store. Always watch for pedestrians, who are also just figuring this all out.

Boston Car Accident Lawyers – Free Legal Consultation

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston car accident attorneys specialize in representing victims of car accidents and pedestrian accidents. We represent those injured across Massachusetts, from Boston and Cambridge to the North Shore to Quincy and the South Shore and Cape Cod.

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

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Massachusetts teen driver using cell phone, causing risk for distracted driving crash.

Distracted driving laws are reducing teen driver crashes, study says.

When drivers use cell phones, they introduce grave dangers to the road and are more likely to crash. This is why many states have now passed distracted driving laws. But how effective have these laws been?

Highly effective, suggests new research. Distracted driving laws are saving the lives of both teen drivers and their passengers in car crashes. The greatest impact is seen when states ban all drivers from cell phone use, not just junior operators under age 18.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital published the findings from a 10-year study in Pediatrics journal. Reviewing more than 38,000 motor vehicle crashes reported between 2007 and 2017, researchers found a significant decrease in fatal motor vehicle crashes among drivers age 16-19.

There was actually a 43 percent reduction in deaths among 16-year-old drivers in states which passed hand held cell phone bans for all drivers (not just a ban for junior operators under 18).

Researchers had the challenge of working with evolving cell phone laws. When the study began in 2007, just 15 states had passed one type of distracted driving law, often a texting while driving ban. By the end, researchers were reviewing the impact of multiple bans, including texting while driving bans (both primary and secondary), hand-held bans and bans on all types of cell phone use for drivers under age 18.

Distracted Driving In Massachusetts

Massachusetts distracted driving crashes are a serious concern, having caused the deaths of drivers as well as pedestrians and cyclists. Once drivers pick up a cell phone, it is hard to break their attention away. The younger the driver, the harder it can be and this makes it essential for teens to establish good habits from the start.

In Massachusetts, a high school student was the first to be criminally prosecuted for motor vehicle homicide, texting while driving and negligent operation of a motor vehicle, according to CNN. Police allege the 17-year-old Haverhill man exchanged nearly 200 text messages in the hours leading up to the fatal crash in 2011. The crash killed a 55-year-old New Hampshire driver and seriously injured his girlfriend, who was riding in his passenger seat. As the prosecutor said at sentencing, “there are no winners today.” He went onto say, “…in a split second, many lives are forever changed.”

The state of Massachusetts reported a 170 percent increase in distracted driving crashes between 2014 and 2016. Over the past few years, lawmakers and safety advocates negotiated proposals to pass a hands-free law or a ban on handheld cell phone use. This finally reached resolution in November 2019, taking effect in April.

Under the Massachusetts Hands-Free Law, drivers are no longer allowed to use hand-held cell phones. They must now use voice-activated technology. The goal is to reduce injuries by taking away the act of reaching for a phone and attempting to dial. However drivers must still use voice-activated cell phones cautiously. Drivers can still cause accidents when using voice-activated technology and can still be held liable if they cause someone’s injuries.

Teen drivers – Massachusetts junior operators under age 18 – are still not allowed to use hands-free cell phones under the new law.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Car Accident Attorneys

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our attorneys fight for the rights of those injured by negligent driving in Boston and across Massachusetts. With more than 100 years combined experience, we have a reputation for strong results for victims of car accidents, truck crashes and bus collisions.

If you have been injured, call our attorneys for a free legal consultation: 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

 

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Massachusetts parent teaching a teen driver how to drive safely and defensively to prevent car accidents.We know many Massachusetts parents regularly talk to their teens about safe driving to prevent car accidents. You should be commended for engaging in this often-stressful conversation.

We urge you to continue on this summer. Helping teens understand the difference between appropriate and unsafe choices and build strong driving skills is a life-long investment in their safety and the safety of others.

Nationwide, teen driving crashes killed more than seven people each day of summer from 2008 to 2018, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.  AAA recently released the 2020 “100 Deadliest Days” of driving report, once again warning teen drivers and parent to take extra precautions between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Be aware of the unique risks this summer, AAA says. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many summer jobs and activities have been cancelled. With more free time, teens may be driving more. AAA urges parents to read its 2020 “100 Deadliest Days” report, and its Parent Coaching Guide, and to have teens sign a safe driving agreement. With this approach, parents can set clear expectations for teens and refer them to the agreement should they forget. If teens violate the terms of the agreement, they may lose driving privileges for a period of time.

Research on Teen Driving Crashes

Here are a few figures for parents to consider. AAA’s research found more than 70 percent of teen drivers age 16-18 had engaged in unsafe and illegal driving behaviors.

Seat belt Use
17 percent of teen drivers admitted to not wearing a seat belt.

Speeding
47 percent of teen drivers admitted to driving 10 mph over the speed limit on a residential street.
40 percent of teen drivers admitted to driving 15 mph on a freeway.

Texting and Cell Phone Use
35 percent of teen drivers admitted to texting while driving.

Other Driving Violations
More than 30 percent of teen drivers admitted to running red lights and aggressive driving. Meanwhile, 25 percent of teen drivers admitted to drowsy driving.

Parents can influence teens on some of these behaviors by developing a teen driving agreement (there are several available on the Teen Driver Source website). Your conversations with your teens are also essential.

Help Your Teen Drive Safely
Help your teen drive safely and avoid a car crash.

Many states have graduated licensing laws, including Massachusetts. Encourage your teen to follow the Massachusetts Junior Operator Law at all times. Under this law, teens are not allowed to use cell phones when driving in Massachusetts, not even under the new Massachusetts “hands-free” driving laws.

When they have a question, encourage them to ask, review their driver’s education materials or the Massachusetts Driver’s Manual. When drivers understand the law, they are more confident making decisions on the road.

Another opportunity is to drive together. Take turns in the driver seat. When you drive, take the opportunity to show your teen how you follow the speed limit. On a 30 mph street, this means driving 30 mph or less, not 35 or 40 mph. Tell your teen what you are doing and why.

Speed-related crashes are prevalent among teens. Simply slowing down and following other vehicles at greater distances can make a tremendous impact in reducing car accidents. At slower speeds, your teen has more time to stop and if they have a collision, injuries are likely to be less severe. Accident victims are more likely to survive a teen driving accident.

At the same time, parents should understand that when teens speed, they may be intentionally speeding and risk-taking. This is unacceptable. But often, the reason is driver inexperience. Teens need more practice using the gas and brakes, and you may need to explain that traveling “just” 5 mph or 10 mph over the  speed limit is dangerous. In fact, you may need to do this a few times, also explaining that teens are more likely to cause injury when they speed and receive a speeding ticket which will impact their junior license.

To help your teen, be patient. Your goal is to demonstrate safe driving techniques and give them feedback when they make a good decision or make a mistake. Yet, if you are too critical, you will make your teen nervous and reluctant to drive with you. Tread lightly but firmly. It’s alright to take a break, but don’t stop trying.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Car Accident Lawyers

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston car accident attorneys represent those who have been injured by negligent driving in Massachusetts. Car accidents often result in serious and catastrophic injuries, including head injuries, spinal cord injuries, broken bones, lacerations and death. When victims survive, they may require medical care, have to take time off from work and suffer other financial losses.

Always learn your legal rights after an injury. For a free legal consultation, call our car accident attorneys at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.

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Driver hands on the wheel at intersection with traffic

Practicing safety at Massachusetts intersections.

If you traveled to Cape Cod or the North Shore this Memorial Day weekend, you most likely crossed many intersections and maybe a few rotaries.

Our Boston car accident attorneys want to take a moment and write about traveling safely through Massachusetts intersections. This is a fundamental, one of the first lessons for student drivers. Yet the reality is, more than 50 percent of all traffic crashes resulting in injuries or death occur in or near intersections, according to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration.

Intersections can be challenging. Drivers can make mistakes. Large trucks can take wide turns, causing serious accidents. And some intersections need improvements.

But often, accidents happen when drivers stop at traffic signals and just stop paying attention to the road. They may be fatigued or their thoughts may be elsewhere. As traffic starts moving again, a driver may step on the gas without checking for pedestrians, cyclists or traffic around them. 

Then there are outright reckless actions. Unfortunately, these endanger everyone in the intersection. These are drivers who are reckless, aggressive, speeding excessively or drinking and driving. These drivers may be cited for traffic violations, but they can also be criminally charged for their actions. When a driver causes injury or death in Massachusetts, they may also be held liable for the victim’s injuries.

Massachusetts Laws for Driving Through Intersections

Travel Slowly. As a driver, always travel slow enough to stop or yield to pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles. You also have to remember other bystanders on sidewalks, such as foot traffic from restaurants and shops. Be prepared for them to make an unexpected move.

Right of Way at Intersections. As a driver, you must understand when you have the right of way and when you have to yield in intersections. You can find some of the rules contained in M.G.L c. 89 § 8. As for right of way, when two vehicles arrive at an intersection at the same time, the driver on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.

Drivers must also yield to other vehicles before turning left. When stopped at a steady red light, drivers can make either a right turn or on a one-way street, they can make a left turn to another one way street. They must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and other traffic as directed by the traffic signal.

Yielding to Cyclists. Drivers may only turn right if they can do so at a “safe distance from the bicyclist at a speed that is reasonable and proper,” according to  M.G.L. c 90 § 14.

When drivers turn right near cyclists, there is a high risk for a right hook crash. As best practice, before making a right turn, drivers should fully check around their vehicle, including behind. They should make use of their rearview and sideview mirrors.

If there is a cyclist, they are most likely to be in the bike lane to your right (though in Massachusetts, cyclists are also allowed to travel in the traffic lane in front or behind you). Yield to them and let them turn right first. You want to keep the cyclist well ahead of you. Then travel slowly because there may be other cyclists nearby.

When drivers turn left, conditions are different. Drivers are most likely to encounter a cyclist coming from another direction. They can avoid a bicycle crash by continuing to scan the intersection and waiting until there are no cyclists.

Yielding to Pedestrians. Pedestrians are safest at intersections marked with crosswalks and traffic signals, which provide “Walk” alerts. Drivers must stop at these traffic signals, but they have a responsibility to stop at other intersections. M.G.L. c 89 § 11.

The best way to avoid a pedestrian accident is to stay well behind the crosswalk line and stay alert throughout the light. Do not check your cell phone, even in hands-free mode. If pedestrians are jaywalking, report this to local police who may be able to set up a barrier to discourage pedestrians.

Put Down Your Cell Phone. Under the new Massachusetts hands-free law – or M.G.L. c 90 § 13B – drivers are not allowed to pick up their cell phones, including at stop signs or traffic signals. Drivers are allowed to use voice-activated technology, but we urge you to set your cell phone and all in-car systems aside. Let calls go to voicemail. Instead, use this time to check traffic conditions around you and get ready for the green light.

Read your Massachusetts Driver’s Manual. While this won’t make your summer reading list, the Massachusetts Driver’s Manual is available online. As a Massachusetts driver, you can access this anytime you have a question. We suggest reading page 111, which explains the Dutch Reach method for safety near cyclists and how to prevent a dooring injury to a cyclist. This is worth noting because cyclists and pedestrians may be traveling in different areas over the next few months as Massachusetts recovers from COVID-19.

About Breakstone, White & Gluck

Since 1992, our Boston car accident lawyers have represented victims of negligent or reckless driving, helping them recover financial compensation for injuries, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages. We represent those injured in the Boston region, including in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Lynn, Quincy, Newton and Watertown. We also represent clients injured in Cape Cod car accidents.

For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 627-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.

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Traffic jam in Massachusetts

Save yourself time and frustration. Our tips for keeping your Massachusetts auto insurance policy in good standing during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

Be proactive and keep your auto insurance policy in good standing during the COVID-19 emergency. When you move or cannot make payment, let your auto insurer know in advance. This will save you a great deal of time, frustration and money during an already stressful time.

First, some news on a small savings. Due to a decrease in driving, many insurers have committed to giving Massachusetts drivers a 15 percent discount for April and May (roughly $30 in savings on a $1,200 policy), according to The Boston Globe. Not a large savings, but you don’t have to be proactive here. Just look for the credit to appear on your premium statements or a rebate check to arrive in the mail.

How Auto Insurance Works For You

Auto insurance is a critical tool in protecting yourself and your family from injury and major financial loss in a car accident or truck crash. If you were negligent in a car crash, you need to have coverage to financially compensate any victims for their medical expenses and other losses. This protects your other financial assets.

When another driver is at fault and causes your injuries, you should be entitled to seek compensation from their auto insurance policy. What’s unfair is this coverage may not be available if the driver is uninsured or is underinsured and has only purchased the state’s minimum requirement for compulsory coverage.

Many drivers should also purchase optional coverages to protect themselves. Read more in our article, “Understanding and Buying Massachusetts Car Insurance.”

Keep Current with Auto Insurance Billing

If you are unable to pay your auto insurance premium, notify your insurance agent or insurer in advance of your payment date. Auto insurers have the right to cancel your policy for non-payment and they can do so in short time. This can lead to extra fees and take up a lot of your time. The worst scenario is if you are stopped by a police officer when your auto insurance has lapsed. You could be fined and your license could be suspended, adding another layer of time and frustration.

Avoid this stress. Call your insurer and request a payment extension. The Massachusetts Department of Insurance has advised insurers “to work with consumers to be flexible and make every possible effort to avoid policy cancellation.” Read this advisory.

And if you don’t have electronic access to your auto insurance policy, ask about setting it up now so you can monitor your account.

Update Your Address

The Massachusetts Department of Insurance calls this “the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself from a claim denial.”  Your insurer sets your premium in part based on your address and the risk of collision there. If you don’t update your address, your insurer may still pay claims for your compulsory coverage. Very likely they will deny claims for your optional coverages.

If you have moved or returned home from college, notify your insurer that you have changed your address and are garaging your vehicle in a different location. Your insurance company may (or may not) provide you with some leeway up to 30 days. Regardless, update your policy immediately. You also have an obligation to update your motor vehicle registration and license and you can do this online.

Don’t own a car? Remind your family members to add you back to their policy.

Reconsider Your Coverages

As Massachusetts looks to reopen, some workers will telecommute. Still, we urge you not to reduce your auto insurance coverages to save money. Not yet. But start a conversation with your auto insurance agent about your current coverages and if they meet your needs.

Start by asking about your optional coverages. Specifically, do you have enough MedPay coverage? And do you need more underinsured and uninsured coverage? A note, if you can only raise one, purchase more MedPay, which will help pay your medical bills. For a few dollars, you can increase your coverage by $10,000 or more and this makes a big difference). Then consider raising your underinsured and uninsured coverages as well. If you do, make sure you purchase the same amount of bodily injury coverage.

If you are spending more time on a bicycle, we urge you to wear a helmet first and foremost. You will also benefit by adding auto insurance coverages to help with your medical expenses and other losses. You may be able to add coverages to your own auto insurance policy or to a household policy. Read our article, “What Every Massachusetts Bicyclist Needs to Know About Car Insurance.” 

Going forward, if you transition to working at home more, monitor your mileage. You may be able to request a low mileage discount and save money without losing any coverage.

Also, consult your insurance agent if you begin driving as part of a new job or as an independent contractor for a restaurant or business. If you are in a car accident while making work deliveries, your private passenger auto insurance policy will not cover you.

The Massachusetts Department of Insurance advises drivers and businesses to ask their insurers about endorsements for delivery drivers during the Massachusetts COVID-19 state of emergency. Read the state’s advisory, “Insurance FAQs During COVID-19 Public Health Crisis.”

About Breakstone, White & Gluck – Boston Car Crash Lawyers

Breakstone, White & Gluck is consistently recognized as a top-rated personal injury law firm in Boston. With more than 100 years combined experience, our attorneys have assisted thousands of car accident victims in Boston, Cambridge, Quincy and across Massachusetts. We have a track record of successful results covering nearly 30 years.

For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.

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Driver stops for pedestrians in Boston

In Massachusetts, traffic is lighter during the COVID-19 emergency, but drivers are being warned to slow down.

During the COVID-19 emergency, Massachusetts residents are getting an unprecedented look at life without traffic congestion. With fewer cars out, there have been fewer accidents. But the drivers who are out have been speeding down open streets. State transportation officials say the high speeds are contributing to traffic fatalities.

The rate of traffic fatalities doubled in April, when traffic dropped by 50 percent on some highways, according the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (or MassDOT). The Boston Globe reported that 28 people died in April, compared to 27 during April 2019, when there was no disruption to traffic.

Speeding and distracted driving have contributed to fatal accidents. According to MassDOT, the fatal crashes resulted in the deaths of drivers, passengers, two motorcyclists and three pedestrians. In Boston, a cyclist was killed by a large truck near Massachusetts and Harrison avenues.

In Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh urged drivers to slow down during his briefing last week. News briefing posted May 1.

“With less traffic, what we’re starting to see is increased speed,” Walsh said. “So the crashes that do happen have been more severe due to the high speed impacts. Even an increase of four to five miles per hour can make a big difference in terms of injuries and possible death.”

The MassDOT did not provide overall crash data for last month. Preliminary data shows two-thirds of crashes happened on local roads.

When traveling in their communities, drivers must remember that they share the road with cyclists and pedestrians. Right now, there are more people out, of all ages. It is essential to stop at crosswalks, yield to pedestrians and drive slowly.

It is also essential to watch for cyclists and practice situational awareness, especially when turning at intersections. Remember that cyclists are allowed to travel in bike lanes, on the right side of the road or in the middle of the lane if necessary for safety. Because cyclists may need to change their lane (for example, to avoid an illegally parked car), it is important to provide cyclists with ample room to make safe decisions.

Just How Slowly Should You Drive?

As a first step, commit to follow the speed limit or travel even slower when necessary. By doing so, you leave yourself more time to stop and prevent a crash before it happens.

It is important to remember that you control your speed and research has found fatal injuries are less likely at lower speeds.  Consider a driver who was traveling at 40 mph and hit a pedestrian. There is a 73 percent likelihood that the driver will cause the pedestrian severe injury or death, according to the Vision Zero safety campaign. At 30 mph, the risk for severe injury or death is reduced to 40 percent. At 20 mph, there is a 13 percent likelihood of causing severe injury or death.

Fewer Drivers, Fewer Tickets and Fewer Car Accidents

The Boston Globe reported on Massachusetts traffic activity on April 30th. As the state responds to COVID-19, there has been a dramatic decline in traffic, citations and accidents.

From March 23 to April 26, more than 2,600 car accidents were reported across Massachusetts. 12,000 car accidents were reported during the same period in 2019.

Another measure of driving activity is usually traffic citations or moving violations, such as speeding and parking violations. But during the first three weeks of April 2020, as residents stayed home and law enforcement responded to COVID-19, Massachusetts police departments issued 95 percent fewer tickets for moving violations compared to the same period in 2019.

While traffic remains light overall, Massachusetts State Police have also observed a “significant surge” in drivers speeding more than 100 mph, according to the Globe. Specifically, drivers have also complained about speeding on the MassPike. Now, the agency plans to increase patrols at random times and places.

Breakstone, White & Gluck – Boston Car Accident Lawyers

Free Legal Consultation

Breakstone, White & Gluck represents those who have been injured by the negligence of others in Massachusetts. Our personal injury attorneys provide experienced representation after motor vehicle accidents, including car accidents, truck crashes, pedestrian accidents and bicycle collisions.

Learn your legal rights after an accident. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck. Call 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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Driver calling on a cell phone

The Massachusetts hands-free driving law bans this action. Fines start today, April 1, 2020.

As of today April 1, Massachusetts police departments can start to issue citations and fines to drivers who violate the Massachusetts hands-free driving law. We encourage you to follow the Massachusetts COVID-19 “Stay at Home” advisory. But if you have to go out, you can help yourself drive more safely and avoid a fine by checking that your car is set up for hands-free mode. Even better? Read this update, but turn off your cell phone while driving. Many of us are exhausted and out-of-routine. Focus on the roads and what you need to get done, so you can get back home.

So far, many drivers are still picking up phones, despite the new law. During the initial grace period from Feb. 23-Mar. 31, police issued 4,500 written warnings across Massachusetts, according to a state official interviewed by WGBH. The official said drivers must become aware of both the law and that police are watching.

“…the police officers I’ve talked to seem to say that everyone who is pulled over says, “Yes, I’ve heard about it. Sorry. My mistake,” said Jeff Larason, director of highway safety at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety. (Listen to the WGBH segment in full).

Massachusetts passed a texting while driving law in 2010 but lawmakers spent nearly 10 years debating the handheld cell phone ban.

The Massachusetts hands-free driving law was passed by the Massachusetts Legislature in November 2019 and quickly signed by Gov. Charlie Baker on Nov. 29. To help drivers get ready, the state granted an initial grace period. Larason told WGBH 4,500 drivers had received written warnings (broadcast date: March 13). The Boston Globe reported State Police had issued 578 warnings to drivers, in just the first week. On Cape Cod, local police reported 150 verbal or written warnings in the first week (Source: South Coast Today via Cape Cod Times).

What the law allows and bans:

  • The law states drivers cannot use any electronic device, including mobile telephones, unless the device is being operated in hands-free mode.
  • Drivers can only touch cell phones and mobile phones once to activate hands-free mode.
  • Cell phones must be properly mounted to the windshield, dashboard or center console and not impede with operation. This is the only way drivers are allowed to use GPS or voice to text technology such as Bluetooth.
  • Drivers are specifically not allowed to touch phones for texting and emailing. Use of apps, video or Internet is also prohibited.
  • Drivers who are 18 and younger are not allowed to use cell phones behind the wheel. Hands-free is illegal and can result in violation of their Massachusetts Junior Operator’s License.
  • You may be stopped. But you are not allowed to pick up your phone at red lights or stop lights.
  • You can pick up your cell phone and make a call if you are in a stationary position, outside a travel lane or bicycle lane.
  • There is also an exemption for emergency professionals who need to pick up the phone for calls and those calling 911. 911 calls must be taken seriously. The state advises drivers to make every attempt to pull over before calling 911 – even if you are in hands-free mode.

Violations of the Massachusetts Hands-Free Driving Law
Police in Massachusetts can now start issuing tickets. Here are the penalties:

First offense: $100 fine.

Second offense: $250 fine and distracted driving education.

Third offense: $500 fine and distracted driving education.

With a third offense, you may face an insurance surcharge.

Related:

Massachusetts hands-free driving law, Mass.gov


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With more than 100 years combined experience, Breakstone, White & Gluck specializes in representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases involving car accidents, truck accidents, pedestrian accidents and bicycle accidents. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling cases for clients injured by negligent use of cell phones and texting while driving. We represent clients across the state of Massachusetts in car accident cases, including in Boston, the North Shore, the South Shore and Cape Cod.

We are open and working remotely for our clients during the state’s COVID-19 advisories. If you have been injured, we are providing free legal consultations at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.

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red light cameras

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering legislation to allow communities to install red light cameras.

In Massachusetts, drivers are getting a strong warning to slow down this week as the state Senate debates red light cameras.

The state Senate is scheduled to debate legislation proposed by Sen. William Brownsberger and redrafted by the Ways and Means Committee.

The proposed bill would grant Massachusetts cities and towns new authority to install automated camera systems to capture vehicles that violate traffic laws at intersections, according to The Boston Globe. The goal is safer roads; the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has reported red light cameras have contributed to a 14 percent reduction in traffic deaths at intersections.

Drivers who violate traffic laws could end up receiving a citation and fine, without ever being stopped by a police officer. The fine would be $25 and tied to the vehicle registration. The person listed on the vehicle registration will receive the traffic citation, not necessarily the person driving at the time. Violations would not count toward Massachusetts auto insurance surcharges.

This is an important proposal and drivers, cyclists and pedestrians want to watch this week. Many, many traffic crashes happen in intersections, when drivers speed through lights, veer out of their lanes or neglect to give cyclists and pedestrians enough space. At the same time, there are many concerns about privacy and how broad laws should reach.

Beyond Massachusetts, 20 states have passed laws allowing red light cameras, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. These states stand divided on authority; 11 states fully permit use while 9 states only allow use in specific situations.

Massachusetts Red Light Camera Legislation 

Under the Massachusetts proposal, communities could install one traffic camera for every 2,500 residents. Signs must be posted and visible warning drivers approaching the intersection. 

To address privacy concerns, communities would be directed to capture photos without identifying the driver or passengers in the vehicle, or any of their belongings. Photographs would be destroyed within 48 hours.

Drivers can be cited for failure to stop for a red light, making an illegal turn at a red light or speeding. Drivers may be cited for traveling at least 5 miles per hour over the speed limit. There will be an appeals process for drivers.

The law should not impact green light or yellow light laws. Lawmakers wrote in language that says a vehicle can be across the line during a yellow light, according to the Globe report. 

Communities will be compensated for the costs of installation and operating the camera system. The state’s Transportation Trust Fund will receive the rest of the revenue from citations.

History of Opposition for Red Light Cameras in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has long opposed the idea of red light cameras due to privacy concerns. More than a decade ago, individual communities attempted to lobby state legislators for the right to install traffic cameras, without success.

But now, growing traffic safety concerns has rekindled proposals in Massachusetts and across the country.

  • Last year, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported red light running crashes have reached a 10-year high in the U.S. 
  • Fatal red light car crashes have increased 28 percent since 2017. 
  • About 35 percent of the victims were the drivers who thought they could race through the red light.

AAA Recommendations for Red Light Camera Use

AAA recommends communities install traffic cameras at intersections with demonstrated patterns of red light violations or crashes. Before launching red light cameras, communities should have established overall traffic safety and engineering plans, AAA says. Law enforcement should directly supervise red light cameras and drivers should be given fair notice with traffic signs and other outreach.

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If you have been injured, learn your legal rights. Contact our car accident lawyers today at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.

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Woman talking on cell phone in car

Hand-held cell phone use becomes illegal in Massachusetts on Feb. 23, 2020, when the new hands-free law takes effect.

The state of Massachusetts has published a new web page and pamphlet on the new hands-free driving law, which takes effect on Feb. 23rd.

While Massachusetts passed a texting while driving ban in 2010, it was the final New England state to enact hands-free legislation in November. When the new law at last takes effect, drivers will be prohibited from using cell phones and electronic devices, unless they are in hands-free mode or they have to call 911 for an emergency.

Distracting driving is a serious safety threat on the roads, causing 9 deaths and more than 1,000 injuries each day in U.S. traffic crashes, according to the CDC. This goes beyond just cell phone use. Think of it as any activity which takes your eyes off the road, your mind off the road or your hands off the wheel.

Texting while driving and cell phone use cause many injuries each year. If the news stories have not deterred you, the new Massachusetts hands-free law should; it is about to become much easier for police to identify drivers who are using cell phones illegally.

Penalties for violating the Massachusetts hands-free law:

For a driver’s first offense, there is a $100 fine. The second offense carries a $250 fine and drivers must complete a distracted driving education program. Third and subsequent offenses can lead to a $500 fine and drivers will have to attend the education program. At this point, drivers can also face an insurance surcharge.

What becomes illegal under the Massachusetts hands-free law:

No Holding Your Cell Phone. Cell phones must be mounted or installed in your vehicle before you use hands-free technology or voice-to-text communication. Drivers can only touch their cell phones to make an initial swipe to activate hands-free mode.

No Touching Your Cell Phone Screen. Drivers cannot touch cell phones to email, check social media or watch video. All other Internet use and app use is also banned.

Get Your GPS Ready. GPS is a critical tool for many drivers. Going forward, be aware that you can only activate your GPS from an electronic device which is installed in your vehicle or properly mounted on the dashboard.

No Cell Phone Use at Red Lights. You can only pick up your cell phone if your car is stationary and safely outside the travel lane. Hand-held cell phone use at stop signs and red lights is a violation. Along with drivers, cyclists are also banned from using hand-held electronic devices.

Visit the state of Massachusetts web page to learn more.

Our Final Note

Massachusetts drivers must continue to use caution under the new hands-free law. Even if you follow the law, hands-free doesn’t mean distraction- or accident-free.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury Lawyers

Breakstone, White & Gluck is a Boston personal injury law firm with extensive experience handling Massachusetts car accident claims for those injured by negligent driving. If you have been injured, our attorneys are here to advise you of your rights to file a claim against the driver or another party who may be at fault. For a free legal consultation, call Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.

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