Articles Posted in Car Accidents

Woman talking on cell phone in car

Americans are checking their cell phones every 12 minutes, according to new research. This means more distraction, including in the car.

As we wait out this snowstorm, you may be checking your smart phone more than usual. This is understandable. But how often do you check on an average weekday? One report shows Americans are checking their smart phones every 12 minutes or 80 times a day. And between Facebook, Twitter and e-mail, we all know someone who may check even more often.

Use your smart phones as often as you want – except in the car. Please consider these thoughts as you wait out the snow:

20180305-seatbelt-1200There is nothing more important than protecting your family and other passengers in the car. Many of us drive less often in the winter in Massachusetts. But in a few weeks, families will be back in the car more for afterschool sports, activities and weekend trips.

Take a few minutes now to inspect your vehicle’s seat belts and child passenger safety seats. Make sure this equipment is working and properly adjusted to fit each child. Replace car seats if your children have outgrown them. Then talk to your family about the importance of always wearing a seat belt.

Dangers on the Road for Children

Drowsy Driving

A new study shows college students are engaging in drowsy driving and do not consider it to be as dangerous as texting while driving and operating under the influence.

As a parent, you have probably talked to your college student about the risks of drunk driving and texting while driving on many occasions. What about drowsy driving? A new study reports college students are not taking this risk as seriously – even as drowsy driving causes an estimated 300,000 traffic crashes each year in the U.S.

The study was published in the February edition of the journal Sleep Health. Researchers conducted four focus groups involving 26 undergraduate students in 2016. Students were asked about their driving behaviors and perceptions about dangerous driving.

Most of the students considered themselves safe drivers, yet they viewed drowsy driving as less risky than operating under the influence of alcohol and distracted driving. Students actually said drowsy driving was “normal” and an “unavoidable part of their lives.” They admitted to drowsy driving in the past. Whether as a driver or passenger, many had actually been in some way involved in a drowsy driving car crash or near accident. In most cases, students were driving alone in the early morning or at night.

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Local communities are restricting road use to stop the flood of drivers who use Waze and other traffic apps.

Commuting is a battle in Massachusetts, full of frustrations and hazards. But residents, communities and lawmakers continue to fight back to improve safety.

On Monday, the state House of Representatives considered a controversial bill proposing new fines for jaywalking and jaywalking while distracted (or as The Boston Globe writes, “Jay-texters”). Meanwhile, WBZ reports communities are closing off roads in response to traffic apps such as Waze and Google Maps.

parking lot accidents
There was a sad story in Westford over the weekend, when a woman was hit and killed in a Market Basket parking lot. Police are still investigating, but according to media reports, the 64-year-old woman was putting groceries into the back of her Toyota Highlander SUV, which was hit by another vehicle. The impact caused her SUV to roll back on top of her.

This is not an isolated accident. Parking lot accidents and backovers are frequently reported in every community in Massachusetts, from Boston and Cambridge to Worcester and Framingham. But the latest accident raises the questions: have parking lots become as dangerous as the roads? And what can be done to improve safety? We should all be able to shop safely.

AAA reports 14 percent of all car accidents take place in parking lots. These can range from minor incidents, such as fender benders or someone opening a car door and hitting another vehicle. Other times, someone is seriously injured or killed, from backovers or speeding drivers.

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Parking lot serving the MBTA Commuter Rail Station in Waltham. The parking lot is on Carter Street, which the city may upgrade in coming years.

Some of the region’s most dangerous roads and intersections are about to be redesigned in Waltham.

The City of Waltham released its 180-page transportation master plan last January. Some of the steps will drastically change the roads – for example, removing a traffic lane on Lexington Street, acquiring land to expand a road and a “super crosswalk.” The goal is to reduce Waltham car accidents and make it easier to travel the city. This is a 10-year master plan, but some changes have already been made.

Over the summer, the city removed a lane of traffic on Lexington Street, from Curve Street to Lake Street. The city’s goal was to reduce car accidents caused by speeding. The speed limit is 30 mph, but drivers often travel 40 to 45 mph.

The street was repainted with two southbound lanes and one northbound lane. Over the first few days, there was a lot of confusion. Some drivers continued to travel on the old lane –  head-on into traffic in the new lane – putting vehicles at risk for a collision, according to a news report.

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Traffic jam in Massachusetts

Fatal car crashes in the U.S. rose more than 5 percent in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The roads were far more dangerous in 2016, with 37,461 people killed in motor vehicle crashes across the U.S. This represents a 5.6 percent increase over 2015. Passenger and motorcyclist deaths reached an 8-year high. More cyclists and pedestrians were killed than in any year since the early 1990s.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released the 2016 figures from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Cyclists may now ride safer near parked cars, after a recent update to the Massachusetts driver’s manual. On page 109, there is a new title, “The Danger of Open Doors to Bicyclists,” and instructions for the Dutch Reach method of exiting a car.

A common practice in the Netherlands, the Dutch Reach method calls on drivers to park and take three simple steps:

  • Check your rear-view mirror.
  • Check your side-view mirror.
  • Open the door with your far hand, the hand farthest away from the door.

This last step forces drivers to turn their bodies, so they can see cyclists and pedestrians coming from both directions.

A Cambridge man campaigned for the change, which was announced by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation on May 30th. According to The Boston Globe, Michael Charney launched the website dutchreach.org following the death of Amanda Phillips, a 27-year-old barista at Somerville’s Diesel Café. Phillips was riding her bicycle in Inman Square in Cambridge when she struck the open door of a parked Jeep. As a result, Philips was pushed into the street and collided with a dump truck.

This is known as a dooring accident or a car-dooring crash. We have represented numerous cyclists in these accidents, which can cause very serious injuries and are more common than you may realize. According to the City of Boston, dooring accidents accounted for up to 13 percent of all bicycle crashes between 2009 and 2012.

Massachusetts is one of 40 states which have passed dooring laws, according to the League of American Cyclists. Under M.G.L. c. 90 § 14, “No person shall open a door on a motor vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so without interfering with the movement of other traffic, including bicyclists and pedestrians.”

Drivers can be fined $100 for each violation. But the greater penalty is drivers may have to pay compensation to injured cyclists. Read about a recent settlement we obtained for a cyclist injured in a dooring accident in Brookline.

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textingincar-c-300Here is another reason for Massachusetts and other states to consider passing laws which ban handheld cell phone use by drivers. A new study reports one in four drivers who crashed was using a cell phone within the previous minute. Cambridge Mobile Telematics released the study last week to coincide with April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Our country needs a reminder this year. Motor vehicle accident deaths are on the rise, as the National Safety Council reported nearly 40,000 deaths in traffic crashes last year. In fact, the period from 2014 to 2016 saw the largest two-year increase in more than 50 years.

Meanwhile, this year has already seen hundreds of deaths across the U.S. Just last month came a horrific accident in Texas. A driver in Uvalde County, who was texting while driving his pick-up truck, crashed into a church bus, killing 13 people. Texas is one of 5 states which do not ban texting while driving.

Motorcycle riding down open roadMotorcycle season is almost here. For riders, this means goodbye snow and cold; hello to the open road.

Good pre-season preparation is essential for motorcyclists. Take some time to inspect your motorcycle and helmet and review the Massachusetts driving manual. Review your auto insurance as well; most drivers and motorcyclists do not carry enough insurance.

Wear a Helmet. Under Massachusetts law, motorcyclists must wear helmets which have been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Helmets save lives so make sure yours is in good condition. If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident or fall, replace your helmet.