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.
Proposal to Strengthen Massachusetts Hands-Free Driving Law By Adding Ban on Recording and Broadcasting While Driving
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.
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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.
Distracted Driving Accidents Have Seriously Injured Cyclists in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Florida
During the past few months, you may have noticed more bicyclists and fewer cars out. Massachusetts bike shops have confirmed that sales are way up since the COVID-19 emergency began. And during an uncertain time, it has been nice to see people enjoy bikes.
But now, as Massachusetts slowly re-opens the economy, driving patterns are changing again. More cyclists are out, but increasingly, so are cars. Coincidentally, traffic laws have also changed. As of April 1st, the Massachusetts hands-free driving law took effect, banning all hand-held cell phone use. Going forward, drivers must connect to voice-activated technology.
This is an important new law for cyclists, who often travel to the immediate right of a vehicle in the bike lane or roadside. When a driver doesn’t pick up a phone, this takes away an unexpected movement, a layer of danger to cyclists.
But several other layers remain. The reality is many drivers do not even realize cyclists are nearby. But cyclists are close and are vulnerable to your quick, unpredictable movements, such as when you pick up a cell phone, reach into your glove compartment or open a fast-food bag as you drive. Or when you tend to your children or other passengers.
If you are a Massachusetts driver, now is the time to set up your vehicle for hands-free cell phone use. Commit to follow the new law and drive safely.
Also commit to check for cyclists. When you stop at a traffic light or stop sign, check in front of you, to each side and behind you. Bicycle accidents often happen because cyclists are approaching from behind cars. Many drivers neglect to look there. Drivers are less likely to look if they are focused on their cell phone or texting while driving.
Many communities are expanding sidewalks or changing traffic patterns to make room for social distance. This means you may encounter cyclists in new areas. Approach slowly, with caution and patience.
Recent Cases: Distracted Driving Accidents and Injuries to Cyclists
Over the past year, there have been several news stories about distracted driving, leading to cyclist injuries and deaths. Even as states such as Massachusetts and Maine have strengthened laws, the number of distracted accidents continues to rise.
Ipswich Texting While Driving Crash Kills Cyclist
On March 26th, just days after the Massachusetts stay at home advisory took effect, there was a tragic crash on an Ipswich Road. According to the The Boston Globe, a 43-year-old driver fatally struck a cyclist in the North Shore community, also injuring two other family members on bikes. Ipswich Police and the Essex County District Attorney’s office announced the driver has been cited for motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation, marked lanes violation and composing, sending and reading an electronic message. A clerk magistrate will decide whether a criminal complaint will be issued.
Pennsylvania Driver Accused of Texting in Cyclist’s Death
In April 2019, a Pennsylvania woman was accused of texting while driving. Penn Live, a local news website, reported she struck a male cyclist in Mount Joy Township. Forensic analysis determined she had sent a text message a minute before the crash. She received a message, then tried to call 911, as a neighbor also called in.
The cyclist died from multiple traumas nine days later. In this case, the driver was charged with felony homicide by vehicle, misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter, and cited with traffic citations in the crash, according to Penn Live.
Florida Distracted Driving Case Ends in Fine, Community Service
In January 2020, a Florida woman pleaded no contest in a fatal crash which killed two cyclists and seriously injured several others. In November 2018, the woman had struck the group of 14 cyclists with her vehicle. They were members of a local bicycle club riding in Davie, a community in Broward County.
According to the Sun Sentinel newspaper, the woman admitted to reaching into her glove compartment for her cigarettes. She also said she was temporarily blinded by sun glare. Police allege the woman was also traveling 70 mph on a 55 mph road when she struck the cyclists. This was a horrific crash and many involved were deeply upset with the outcome. In this case, local prosecutors maintained the woman’s actions did not warrant a criminal charge of motor vehicle homicide, according to the Sun Sentinel. So the driver pleaded no contest to careless driving, leaving court with orders to pay a $1,000 fine and complete 120 days of community service. She also lost her driver’s license for six months.
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Boston Bicycle Accident Lawyers – Distracted Driving Injuries to Cyclists
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston bicycle accident attorneys have more than 100 years combined experience. We represent cyclists and others who have been injured by distracted driving, including a driver’s negligent use of a cell phone.
Distracted driving accidents can seriously injure cyclists. We urge you to act right away if you suspect a driver’s cell phone use may have caused your injuries. If you or a loved one was injured, it is important to consult an experienced lawyer to learn your rights. You may be entitled to pursue financial compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other financial losses.
For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.
Massachusetts Hands-Free Law Update: Fines Can Begin 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.
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.
State of Massachusetts Releases Education Materials on New Hands-Free Driving Law
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.
Massachusetts Passes Hands-Free Driving Law
Massachusetts has finally approved distracted driving legislation. Gov. Charlie Baker signed on Monday, establishing New England as a hands-free driving zone.
According to The Boston Globe, the new distracted driving law will take effect on Feb. 23, 2020. Massachusetts police officers will issue warnings until the end of March, then citations will begin. This transition period is meant to help drivers get used to the new law. Become familiar with Bluetooth and other “hands-free” technologies now, and if you plan to use an electronic device for navigation, purchase a mount for your windshield or dashboard.
Until now, most drivers have been able to pick up cell phones to talk in Boston and across Massachusetts. However, under the 2010 texting while driving ban, drivers cannot text, read emails or use social media. This has helped deter some drivers, but overall, not enough without a handheld cell phone ban.
Come next year, Massachusetts drivers can only use cell phones under limited circumstances. Drivers can use electronic devices on “hands-free” mode (though they do get a single-swipe to activate or de-activate the “hands-free” mode). As we mentioned, they must use Bluetooth or a similar “hands-free” technology and mount navigation devices.
Police officers can stop drivers as a primary offense, which is more leeway than they have in enforcing seat belt use. Officers will be required to collect data – including age, race and gender – when they issue a warning or citation. The state will use this data to monitor potential racial profiling by police departments.
The new Massachusetts distracted driving law brings notable consequences. These alone are good financial motivators for putting down your cell phone.
Under the new law, drivers will be fined $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second offense and $500 for the third offense (and any subsequent offense). Second-offenders have to participate in a driver safety course. Drivers can also face an insurance surcharge.
Safety is the most important point. Cell phone use is responsible for more than 1 of 4 car crashes, according to the National Safety Council. Distracted drivers killed 3,166 people across the U.S. in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These are hard numbers to hear.
Massachusetts now joins every other New England state in improving hands-free cell phone legislation. Maine was the last state to approve legislation this past summer. According to the National Conference of State Legislature, 20 states already have laws which ban handheld cell phone use, so Massachusetts could be the 21st.
Read the law: AN ACT REQUIRING THE HANDS-FREE USE OF MOBILE TELEPHONES WHILE DRIVING, 2019 Mass. Acts 122
Boston Car Accident Lawyers – About Breakstone, White & Gluck
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston car accident lawyers have over 100 years combined experience and provide expert investigation into car crashes involving negligent cell phone use. We represent clients who have been injured by negligent driving across Massachusetts, including in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Quincy and Braintree. South of Boston, our attorneys have represented numerous clients, including those injured in Brockton, Plymouth and Cape Cod, as well as in Framingham, Worcester and north of Boston, Salem, Peabody, Newburyport and Saugus.
If you have been injured, learn your legal rights. Call 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
Study: Teen Crashes Cause Nearly 20 Percent More Deaths On Summer Days
When your teen driver picks up the keys, you may casually say, “Have fun and be safe.” But this is when your worry sets in.
In this blog, Breakstone, White & Gluck reports on the latest research on teen drivers along with essential safety fundamentals to share with your family. Our partners each have more than 35 years of experience representing those who have been injured by negligent drivers in Boston, Cambridge and across Massachusetts. To avoid these tragedies, we encourage parents to play an even more proactive role to encourage safety during the summer months.
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety “100 Deadliest Days” Study
A new study reports two-thirds of people injured or killed in car crashes involve a teen driver. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released this figure as part of its “100 Deadliest Days” report on the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day. During the past five years, nearly 3,500 people have been killed in crashes caused by teens during the summer months, according to AAA.
More than a quarter of the teen driving crashes were caused by speeding. Teens who were drinking and driving caused 17 percent of the deadly collisions while distracted driving behaviors caused 9 percent of the deaths.
- Teen drivers, age 15-18, are 17 percent more likely to cause a fatal car crash in the summer than other times of the year.
- The legal age for consuming alcohol is 21 years old in every state. Yet 1 in 6 teens involved in fatal summer crashes tested positive for alcohol.
- More than 52 percent of teens participating in AAA’s research reported they had read a text message or email while driving in the past 30 days. Another 40 percent admitted to sending one.
- As part of its research, AAA used in-vehicle dash cameras and found 58 percent of teens who caused a crash were engaged in distracted behaviors. This was four times as high as federal estimates.
Other research goes deeper, showing teen drivers crash nearly 4 times as often per mile as drivers age 20 and up (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.) The younger the driver, the more likely they are to crash due to inexperience or risky behaviors. Even a couple years can make a significant difference. For instance, the crash rate for 16-year-old drivers is 1.5 times as great as for 18- and 19-year-olds.
A few tips for your family:
Teen driving agreement. If you have never done so, now is a good time to have your child sign a teen driving agreement. Don’t just get a signature. Ask your teen to read each point out loud and ask if they understand or have any questions.
Massachusetts Junior Operator Law. Remind your teen that they have additional restrictions under the state’s junior operator law. If they violate the law, they may be cited and the infraction will go on their driving record. There is nothing you can do to help them at that point unless you plan to hire a criminal defense lawyer and attempt to challenge the citation.
For the first six months, drivers age 16 ½ to 18 cannot carry passengers under the age of 18, except for family members. The law also bans junior operators from driving between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. and cell phone use is not allowed for any reason. There are additional consequences for driving under the influence of alcohol, speeding or drag racing.
Drinking and Driving. Explain to your teen that there is a zero tolerance policy for drinking and driving in your home. Encourage them to avoid parties where there are a large number of teens or where teens may be drinking.
At the same time, they should never get in the car with a friend who has been drinking and you will do everything you can to help them get home safely in situations involving alcohol. Come up with an emergency plan together now before there is a crisis situation.
Drive with your teen. Ask your teen to tag along when you go to the grocery store or mall. Show them how you handle the parking lot or the busy intersection where you need to watch for cyclists and pedestrians. Talk through some of the steps out loud. Then, give them the wheel on the way home.
Set a good example. Do not heavily consume alcohol and never drive if you do. Put your cell phone in the back seat when you drive. If your teen calls, say, “I was driving and couldn’t talk.” If you use a hands-free driving device, consider limiting use while your teen gets started on the road.
About Breakstone, White & Gluck
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston car accident lawyers have over 100 years combined experience. Our lawyers are committed to providing aggressive representation and obtaining the best possible financial results for clients – in every case. We represent clients injured by car crashes and in truck accidents in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and across Massachusetts.
For a free legal consultation, contact us at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
Massachusetts Tries Again at Passing Hands-Free Driving Law
Hands-free legislation has taken a step forward in Massachusetts this year. So have the studies and research showing the dangers cell phones bring to the roads.
Eight years ago, Massachusetts banned texting while driving. Since that time, lawmakers have considered several proposals to ban drivers from using hand-held cell phones, with a goal of reducing distracted driving injuries and fatalities. On May 15, 2019, the Massachusetts House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported another proposal with a 155-2 vote. As many watch, the state Senate now plans to discuss the legislation in early June. Watch with caution though. The Senate has already approved hands-free driving bills during each of the last two sessions, according to the State House News Service.
Under the House bill (H 3793), drivers would not be able to use hand-held cell phones. If they want to talk, drivers will have to use hands-free technology such as a Bluetooth device and keep their hands away from their phones. The primary exception is drivers can make a single tap or swipe to activate the device’s hands-free mode. There is another limited exception for public safety personnel and drivers in certain emergency situations.
What about GPS? Drivers can continue to use GPS devices which are mounted onto their vehicle’s dashboard, but these must not impede operation.
Fines for violations would start at $100 for first-time offenders. There would be a $250 fine for a second offense and a $500 fine for third and subsequent offenses. The bill would take effect 90 days after passage, but drivers will receive warnings instead of fines for violations up until Dec. 31, 2019.
In addition to approving hands-free legislation, the House bill would also require an annual review of the race and demographic information for drivers who are issued traffic citations. While Massachusetts already collects this data, lawmakers say there needs to be a consistent and regular review.
Distracted Driving Increases Near Emergency Responders
As we wait for legislators to vote, we want to share a few recent studies on distracted driving.
In April, the National Safety Council (NSC) released an alarming and upsetting report on a dangerous trend: drivers using cell phones near emergency responders.
All 50 states have “move over” laws which require drivers to clear the way and give emergency responders space to work. The Massachusetts “Move Over Law” took effect in 2009 and protects the work area for police officers, firefighters, paramedics, tow truck drivers and all roadside emergency and maintenance professionals.
Despite these laws, the NSC reports 71 percent of drivers surveyed said they take photos and video when they see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road. While passing by, they film fires, car crashes and even routine traffic stops.
Drivers are doing more than capturing the scene. Sixty percent are also posting footage to social media. Another 66 percent are providing someone with an update by e-mail.
There is a tragic cost to this cell phone use. About 16 percent of drivers surveyed said they have actually hit a first responder or were involved in a near-crash. And despite their actions, nearly 90 percent agree: their cell phone use puts emergency responders in harm’s way.
This problem doesn’t go away once the ambulance or police car drives away. On a normal day, when emergency responders are not on the scene, 24 percent of the drivers admit they still snap pictures and record video. Another 29 percent of drivers say they engage with social media and 24 percent say send e-mails.
AAA Foundation for Driver Safety Reports on Teen Driving, Cell Phone Use
Another study comes from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and reports on the risk teen drivers bring to the roads, including when they use cell phones.
The study focused on drivers between the ages of 15 and 18, including those with learner’s permits, restricted licenses (often called junior operator licenses) and full licenses. The study reports teens are a vulnerable driving group because of their inexperience and they need education into the potential consequences of cell phone use, speeding and other reckless behavior. AAA released the study to raise awareness between Memorial Day and Labor Day, often known as the “100 Deadliest Days.”
The study reported that teen drivers killed nearly 3,500 people from 2013 to 2017. Cell phone use contributes to these car accidents. Some 52 percent of teens said they had read a text message or sent an e-mail while driving, according to the AAA study.
AAA noted police often struggle to determine if texting caused a car crash, but that the study’s researchers made use of in-vehicle dash cameras. With these tools, AAA found 58 percent of teen crashes were the result of distractions, including texting and reading text from a cell phone.
About Breakstone, White & Gluck
Breakstone, White & Gluck of Boston specializes in representing those who have been injured by the negligence and wrongdoing of others. With more than 100 years combined experience, our personal injury attorneys represent clients in matters involving catastrophic injuries, car accidents, bicycle accidents, medical malpractice, head injuries and wrongful death.
For a free legal consultation, contact us toll-free at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.
Hands-Free Cell Phone Law Proposed in Massachusetts
Many of us expected Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito would file legislation to limit drivers to hands-free cell phone use this year. But the Baker-Polito Administration went much further last week when it filed, “An Act Relative to Improving Safety on the Roads of the Commonwealth.” In announcing the legislation, the administration reported more than 15,000 people were seriously injured in Massachusetts traffic accidents between 2012 and 2016. Another 1,820 people were killed, including 14 road workers.
The Massachusetts Legislature now has a great deal to consider in coming months. Because these proposals will impact us all, we encourage you to follow the media coverage and share your thoughts with your local legislators and town officials.
Cell Phones. In 2010, Massachusetts banned texting while driving. There have been similar proposals, but no action on handheld cell phones. Meanwhile, distracted driving accidents have increased, claiming 3,450 lives in 2016, according to the NHTSA.
The Baker-Polito proposal would require drivers who use electronic devices to go “hands-free” and make use of hands-free driving equipment, such as Bluetooth. Drivers would have to use voice commands instead of reaching for hand-held cell phones. The proposal does allow “a single tap or swipe to activate, deactivate or initiate hands-free mode.”
If this proposal is approved, Massachusetts would be the 16th state to have a hands-free cell phone law, joining all the New England states.
Primary Seat Belt Enforcement. According to the GHSA, 34 states have primary seat belt laws for drivers and front-seat passengers.
Massachusetts has a secondary seat belt law, meaning police officers cannot simply pull a motor vehicle over for a seat belt violation. A police officer must first observe another moving violation, such as speeding or running a red light.
A primary enforcement law for seat belts has been a hard sell in Massachusetts. But we urge you and your family to use the debate as a reminder to wear a seat belt every time you ride. According to the NHTSA, seat belts saved an estimated 14,668 lives in traffic accidents in 2016. Wearing a seat belt is an easy choice we can all make to protect ourselves.
Road Workers. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation would be granted authority to lower speed limits in construction zones. Fines would double in areas where workers are.
Truck Sideguards. In 2014, the Boston City Council approved a truck sideguard ordinance for all city-contracted trucks – the first in the nation. The governor’s proposal builds on this, mandating sideguards for all state-owned trucks and vehicles over 10,000 pounds. Along with sideguards, trucks must be equipped with convex and cross-over mirrors to increase driver’s visibility. If approved, trucks would have to be equipped by Jan. 1, 2020. All state and municipal contractors would have to do the same by 2022.
The sideguards are intended to protect the area between the truck’s front and back wheels, blocking it off to cyclists and pedestrians who can be caught underneath. Massachusetts has seen numerous cyclists who have been seriously injured or killed by these types of truck accidents.
Electric Scooters. The proposal would start regulating electric scooters like bicycles and allow scooter rentals to move ahead in local communities. This has been a point of contention in the Boston area as bikeshare and rideshare companies are eager to start scooter rentals here. Cities have argued that scooters are illegal because they don’t have directional signals as stated under current state law.
Ignition Interlock Devices. When drivers are convicted of operating under the influence or drunk driving in Massachusetts, they are permitted to apply for a hardship license. With this proposal, anyone who applies for a hardship license must use an ignition interlock device for a minimum of six months. The proposal also clarifies that the Registry of Motor Vehicles has authority to impose penalties if drivers attempt to drive after consuming alcohol or tamper with a device.
Mass.gov: “An Act Relative to Improving Safety on the Roads of the Commonwealth.”
About Breakstone, White & Gluck – Boston Car Accident Lawyers
With more than 100 years combined experience, Breakstone, White & Gluck specializes in representing individuals injured in car accidents, truck accidents and other catastrophic collisions. If you have been injured, learn your rights at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.
Holiday Season Brings Rise in Car Crashes, Parking Lot Accidents
When you finish your holiday shopping, and start to head home, you may be tempted to pick up your cell phone and call someone. But the parking lot is not a safe place and the holidays are not the season.
Unfortunately, car accident claims typically rise during the holidays, as many of us head out shopping or to enjoy holiday lights. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), the increase begins around Thanksgiving and Black Friday. We are now approaching one of the worst stretches, the days just before Christmas.
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston personal injury lawyers urge you to travel slowly and set aside distractions to prevent parking lot crashes. Too many drivers are engaging in these distractions, according to this recent National Safety Council poll:
- 66 percent of drivers nationwide said they would make phone calls while driving through parking lots.
- Teens were less likely to make phone calls than adults (60 percent).
- Another 63 percent said they would program GPS systems.
- More than half, 56 percent, said they would text and 52 percent said they would use social media.
- Another 50 percent said yes to sending or receiving e-mails, while 49 percent said they would take photos or watch videos.
- More than half of all teens and adults also admitted they would take time for personal grooming (59 percent of teens; 53 percent of adults).
Tips for Preventing Parking Lot Crashes
- Drive slowly. Give yourself plenty of time to react to pedestrians and other vehicles.
- Do not cut through parking lots; follow the traffic lane.
- Avoid distracted driving activities, such as cell phone use, texting, listening to loud music and engaging in intense discussion.
- Choose your place to check electronics, such as before you leave the mall or store.
- Use blinker signals.
- Obey stop signs and other signs. Back out carefully.
- Always watch for pedestrians in the parking lot and at the entrance. Be extremely patient and always wait for them to reach the sidewalk before moving.
- Walk all the way around your vehicle before stepping inside, looking for pedestrians and parents with small children and baby strollers.
- Consider parking away from other cars to avoid shopping mall parking lot crashes.
The Impact: Parking Lot Crashes
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports parking lot crashes account for about 20 percent of all auto claims. The NSC reports on average each year, there are 60,000 injured by parking lot crashes and 500 or more who die. Pedestrian accidents account for many parking lot crashes. Backup accidents are responsible for nearly 10 percent of fatal pedestrian crashes in parking lots.
Over the past few years, a number of pedestrian accidents in Massachusetts parking lots have been fatal. In 2017, a Trader Joe’s employee in Acton was killed. A year earlier, a 52-year-old woman died in Wilmington, outside a Rite-Aid. In 2015, a pedestrian was killed in the parking lot of the Cloverleaf Mall in Natick, just across the street from the Natick Collection (or the old Natick Mall).
Cell Phone Use and Massachusetts Law
Eight years ago, Massachusetts banned texting while driving. If you are texting or writing an e-mail and cause a car crash, you could be cited by police. If you injure another driver, the police citation could be used in a civil lawsuit to prove your negligence and you will have to pay compensation to the victim.
All but three states have texting while driving bans. Hand-held cell phone bans are a different story, with just 16 states approving bans. Hand-held cell phones are still permitted when driving in Massachusetts, but safety advocates urge drivers not to use them, especially in parking lots. In a matter of seconds, a simple act such as trying to look up GPS directions or dialing a friend can lead to a serious and possibly fatal accident.
Free Legal Consultation: 800-379-1244
If you have been injured in a parking lot crash, it is important to learn your legal rights for seeking financial compensation under Massachusetts law. Contacting a Boston car accident lawyer promptly is essential so they can act quickly to protect your rights.
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our lawyers have over 100 years combined experience representing those injured in auto collisions. For a free legal consultation, contact us at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.