New Bike Lanes Help, But Massachusetts Drivers Must Still Slow Down and Watch for Cyclists
As COVID-19 kept many of us home, Boston and nearby cities built out an impressive 35 miles of new bike lanes in 2020 and 2021, according to a news report.
But, while encouraging safety, bike lanes alone cannot prevent cycling accidents. Drivers still have a responsibility to slow down, travel safely in their lane and use extra caution, especially as they get to know the new infrastructure.
Consider that bike lanes must be a minimum of 5 feet wide under state highway standards. In Boston, the city’s transportation department works to build at least 6 feet wide in areas with high bike traffic and 6 to 7 feet in areas with heavy parking turnover. Then factor in parking, traffic and bus lanes and you have more than covered the widest roads.
Finding New Bike Lanes in Boston, Cambridge and Nearby Cities
If you travel into Boston or Cambridge, you will find several miles of new bike lanes, including both conventional and protected bike lanes.
Conventional bike lanes – also called unprotected bike lanes – are flat lanes which create a designated lane for cyclists using paint and signage. Protected bike lanes are designed to add another layer of safety. These are usually more visible and use physical barriers – such as flexiposts or curbing – to separate cyclists from drivers.
During the pandemic, the City of Boston expanded its bike lane network with protected bike lanes on all roads around the Boston Public Garden. The city is now working to connect key stretches of bike lanes, including at the intersection of Beacon and Arlington streets near the west end of the Public Garden.
Beyond Boston and Cambridge, you can take a drive into Medford, Somerville, Newton or Brookline, among other communities, to see new bike lanes built during the pandemic. Somerville and Medford saw significant bike lane development along Route 28 and the Wellington Bridge, with funding from the state’s Shared Streets and Space Program.
Some of the new protected bike lanes are “quick-build” projects. Keep this in mind as you drive. Cities may now experiment and take flexiposts up and down as seasons and traffic volumes change.
How Boston Drivers Can Avoid Bike Lane Accidents
Now more than ever, it is critical to watch because there are more cyclists out. According to state figures, ridership is up more than 25 percent in many Massachusetts communities as we emerge from the pandemic.
Learn Where Cyclists Are Allowed to Ride
When driving, take a good look at the full road. You may initially notice the traffic lanes, intersections and stop signs. Many drivers, however, overlook the bike lanes, if the road even has them.
If you see bike lanes, consider these a guide. A cyclist may ride in the bike lane. But they may also have to move into the roadway at times to position themselves for a left turn or because the bike lane ends.
When the bike lane ends, a cyclist may choose to stay on the right side of the road or they may attempt to move into the traffic lane. Cyclists are allowed to ride up to two abreast in the traffic lane in Massachusetts. Many cyclists try to avoid this approach to avoid backing up traffic. But you will see this and it is important to give cyclists enough space to make safe decisions.
Maintaining a slow and safe speed near cyclists is critical. When you speed, you can easily cross over painted bike lanes or even flexiposts, and you leave yourself less time to respond if cyclists, pedestrians or other drivers make an unexpected move.
Open Car Doors Carefully
Drivers can injure cyclists and pedestrians even after they park. Drivers who open doors without checking, or leave a car door open as they get ready to get out, have caused many dooring accidents and serious injuries to cyclists in the Boston area.
At least 40 states – including Massachusetts – have recognized the danger of dooring and made this a traffic offense, according to the League of American Bicyclists.
The Danger of Parking in Bike Lanes
It is also illegal for drivers to park in bike lanes in Massachusetts under M.G.L. c. 89, § 4D. Drivers have to remember bike lanes are travel lanes for cyclists. If you park in a bike lane and a cyclist is injured as a result, you may be fined by local police, just as you can be if you open a door into a cyclist’s path.
The cyclist could also file a claim against you and hold you financially responsible for their medical expenses, lost wages and other damages.
Distracted Driving Can Be Deadly Near Cyclists
As you drive, look how close you are to cyclists and the bike lane. There is little room for error and it is highly dangerous to pick up your cell phone for any reason. You could veer off the road and into the bike lane, then hit a cyclist. Use your best judgment and wait. Another factor to consider is pedestrians. Both you and the cyclist approaching have a duty to stop and yield to pedestrians at crosswalks and other situations. There is no room for distractions.
The tragedy is at least two cyclists have been killed in distracted driving accidents in Massachusetts since the start of the pandemic.
In August 2020, a driver was reportedly texting and collided into three cyclists traveling along Topsfield Road in Ipswich, according to the Salem News. One of the cyclists later died at a local hospital and police charged the driver.
The criminal case was ultimately resolved last month, when the driver pleaded guilty to negligent motor vehicle homicide, but avoided jail time. The driver’s criminal defense lawyer argued she had texted with a friend earlier about visiting Crane Beach, but just before the crash, she suffered from a gastrointestinal condition and this caused her to take her eyes off the road, leading to the crash.
In Northampton, another driver is facing criminal charges in connection with a fatal bike crash in October 2021. Police allege the driver was using the FaceTime app and ran a stop sign near Northampton High School, then fatally injured the cyclist, according to local news reports. Now, a state legislator is seeking to update the state’s hands-free driving law to specifically ban video broadcasting and vlogging while driving.
Watch for Cyclists and Turn Safely at Intersections
When you stop at an intersection, you may expect cyclists to pull up to your right in the bike lane. They may do so. However, they may also come up behind you or move into the traffic lane to turn left.
Continue to look around your vehicle as you wait at the intersection and use caution when you make right-hand turns. Check your mirrors and blindspot so you can avoid turning right into cyclists and causing injuries. These are called “right-hook” bicycle accidents and they have often been fatal in Boston.
Under Massachusetts law, drivers can be cited for overtaking and passing bicyclists to make a right turn, unless they can turn at a “safe distance” at a “speed that is reasonable and proper,” M.G.L. c 90 § 14. With so much activity at intersections, it is better to just wait for cyclists to turn safely.
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our attorneys have represented cyclists and families in wrongful death cases resulting from right hook bike crashes at intersections. These are painful experiences made worse because these accidents are preventable if drivers check their mirrors and blindspot for cyclists.
Operators of large trucks are responsible for many right-hook crashes. Truck companies can protect against injuries by providing drivers with proper training and upgrading equipment with sideguards and convex mirrors.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Bicycle Accident Lawyers
Breakstone, White & Gluck is a strong supporter of safe cycling in Massachusetts and has been recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as a Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Business.
With more than 100 years combined experience, our lawyers fight for the rights of those injured by negligence or wrongdoing in personal injury cases. We have extensive experience representing cyclists who have been injured by negligent driving in the Boston area and across Massachusetts.
If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, learn your legal rights. Call for a free legal consultation and our attorneys will review the facts of your case with you to help you determine if you have a potential claim against a driver to help you with your recovery. Do not hesitate to call; we are experienced at working with both cyclists and family members to address all your concerns and preserve your legal rights in the hours, days and months after a bike crash.
For a free legal consultation, call 800-379-1244 (toll-free) or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
More Pedestrian Accidents Were Fatal in Massachusetts Last Year
As the New Year begins, Massachusetts closes the door on a very dangerous year for pedestrians.
There was disappointing news on the state’s roads, as traffic fatalities rose 19 percent over 2020, according to MassDOT preliminary data (January 4, 2022). But those who walked faced the most risks. Pedestrian fatalities increased a stunning 38 percent, coming in near pre-pandemic levels.
Statewide, 76 pedestrians were killed in motor vehicle accidents last year, compared to 2019, when there were 78 deaths. The state recorded 55 pedestrian deaths in 2020, when traffic volumes fell early on during the Massachusetts “stay-at-home” and essential worker orders.
Most concerning is when a driver injured a pedestrian last year, the encounter was more often fatal. According to the January 4th data, in Massachusetts, you had a greater chance of surviving a pedestrian accident in 2019 than you did last year.
The state recorded about 2,197 pedestrian accidents in 2019. About 3.5 percent of these resulted in fatal injuries. Meanwhile, in 2021, there were 1,520 reports of motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians. Five percent of these crashes claimed a pedestrian’s life.
These are preliminary numbers from the MassDOT. It is important to remember these could rise in future days and weeks.
Drivers Have a Duty to Decrease Speed At Times for Safety
Drivers may operate recklessly or make unsafe choices, such as speeding or running a red light, during any season. Come winter, when the snow and ice arrive, these decisions can be deadly for pedestrians. Drivers may have less time to make corrections.
In Massachusetts, drivers have a duty to use reasonable care and this includes traveling at a safe speed.
Drivers have a duty to observe the posted speed limit as the maximum that is “reasonable and proper.” But they must use good judgment and lower their speed for safety, “when a special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic, or by reason of weather or highway conditions.” M.G.L. c. 90, § 17.
This describes many winter driving situations.
Still, as a pedestrian, you should expect drivers may speed and approach you too closely in the winter. While you cannot control this, you can try to stay visible. When drivers see you, they may recognize their responsibility to slow down as appropriate for the road conditions.
Safety Tips for Pedestrians During the Winter Months
Use Sidewalks. Sidewalks are an essential safety tool in the winter. Always use sidewalks and stay inside the snowbank when waiting for crosswalk signals.
Consider Yourself a Pedestrian. Most of us are a pedestrian at some point in the day. You may consider yourself a pedestrian if you walk to work or take your children to school. Or if you walk for exercise. But you are also a pedestrian when you walk through the grocery store parking lot, drop off a package at the post office or wait for a bus or rideshare. Recognize this and take steps to protect yourself just as you would if you were walking to work or around your neighborhood.
One challenge is pedestrians do not have the same tools as drivers, such as safety mirrors. You may not be able to see drivers up high in trucks or work vehicles. Because of this, it is important to use crosswalks and try to make eye contact with drivers before crossing streets, intersections and parking lots. Again, when drivers see you, they are more likely to slow down or look for you before they turn and this is even more critical when snow is taking up room on the roads.
Stand Out in Bright Colors. Now is a good time to add a few bright colors to your wardrobe. Wear neon or reflective clothing to help drivers see you. This is a simple step with a big return because it encourages drivers to maintain a safe distance.
Look for Crosswalks with Traffic Signals and Safety Signs. Look for crosswalks with traffic signals, which are designed to guide drivers and pedestrians at all hours, through all types of weather. Keep in mind you may not be able to see traffic signs or paint markings after winter snowstorms.
Stay Away from Plow Trucks! Stay away from plow trucks on roads or parking lots. Grocery store parking lots are full of hazards in the winter because they see so much traffic and may need frequent plowing. You may find snowplow drivers are continuously at work. It is never safe to approach a snowplow, even parked vehicles. The driver could make a sudden decision to back up.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury Lawyers
Founded in 1992, Breakstone, White & Gluck has been consistently recognized among the top personal injury law firms in Boston and across Massachusetts. Our lawyers specialize in representing those injured by negligent driving and we provide experienced and aggressive representation to pedestrians and families after serious crashes and crosswalk accidents.
If you have been injured, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck of Boston at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
Deck the Halls, But Decorate Safely
Though a time for joy, the holidays can also set the stage for potential injuries, as we rush, stress, decorate and wrap. Surprisingly, you may discover some of the most dangerous hazards right in your own home, among the holiday decorations and boxes you pull of storage to deck the halls.
While colorful and festive, holiday decorations contribute to many injuries each year. During 2019, nearly 15,000 people were injured in holiday decorating incidents and treated in emergency rooms, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Nearly half of these injuries involved falls. Many others are injured each year after the decorations are hung, by defective or poorly-made products or decorations that are set up unsafely.
Unlike some situations, you have control of your home and can take steps to protect yourself, your family and holiday guests.
Start by simply walking around your home and checking your holiday decorations and your Christmas tree, if you have one. Make sure all your decorations are out of reach of young children and put away all tools, such as ladders and hammers, or boxes you may have left out while decorating.
Watch for unsafe products, such as those which arrive in questionable packaging or contain broken or small parts. Manufacturers have a responsibility to design products and provide reasonable warnings for safe use. There can be a high cost when manufacturers or others in the supply chain neglect their responsibilities in the rush to sell, or when individual sellers on Craiglist or Facebook Marketplace offer used goods without the original packaging. But it can happen and ruin a family’s holiday – unless you recognize the risk and act to prevent injury.
Use Caution While Hanging Holiday Decorations
Still have some decorating to do? Remember not to rush. During a season of merry and bright, you want to be safe and avoid injury. Holiday decorating can cause a range of injuries, from passing muscle strain to broken bones, though injuries can be much more serious, resulting in head injuries and even permanent disability. At a minimum, many people experience some muscle strain the next day after reaching and climbing. Planning can help!
So make a decorating plan. Team up with a family member or a friend so you have help carrying heavy boxes or using ladders or step stools.
Consider whether you are physically up for holiday decorating. As you get older, you may not be able to take on the same physical challenges. Acknowledge this before you start.
While you may be thinking, “Bah humbug,” you can still decorate. Just make a few adjustments for safety or to account for your late start. You can hang fewer holiday lights and hang them lower so you can stay off ladders, which are associated with many fall injuries during the holiday season.
Decorators of all ages should consider the cold weather. Even without snow or ice, you face a greater risk for muscle strain and injury during cold weather. It is never safe to climb a ladder in snow, ice, rain, winds or at night.
Water Your Christmas Tree Regularly
If you celebrate Christmas, your tree is the center of your holiday season, where you gather for family photos. But you should only purchase a live tree if you are home and have time to care for it.
Just as they bring joy, Christmas trees can cause devastation if they dry out and catch on fire. Each year, fire departments respond to an average of 160 Christmas tree fires across the U.S., resulting in injuries, deaths and millions of dollars in direct property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association. These experiences can change a family and the holidays forever.
If you have already brought your tree inside, you may have cut 2 inches off the bottom before placing it in the tree stand. Now, your concern is watering the tree.
Regularly water your Christmas tree and keep it away from fireplaces and heating devices, which can accelerate drying out. The National Christmas Tree Association recommends that families check their tree daily and make sure the water level does not fall below the base of the tree.
Your Christmas tree stand is one of your most important holiday decorations in terms of safety. Choose one which can hold enough water to support your tree’s needs throughout the year. As a general rule, the association recommends stands provide one quart of water per inch of stem diameter.
If you are not up for a live tree, go artificial. Make sure your artificial Christmas tree is marked “flame-resistant.”
Watch for Defective Products and Check Holiday Extension Cords for Safety
Closely examine holiday decorations and equipment before you start decorating. Your trusted tools and supplies may have been recalled for safety since your last use or may not work well with newer products you have purchased.
Check ornament boxes for cracks; make sure ladders and foot stools are in good working condition, if you have to use them. Extension cords should be free from damage and cracks.
This is easy to forget. Many of us reach for extension cords after we start setting up decorations, not first. But here are a few points for safety on extension cords:
- Extension cords should be tested by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL) or CSA Group Testing and Certification. Similarly, holiday lights should also be tested.
- You should only use one extension cord at the most, so measure and buy one that meets your needs.
- Make it a habit to check for safety recalls before you plug your holiday extension cords in. Just visit www.cpsc.gov and search for extension cord recalls
- Replace your extension cords every few years. You trust these cords to light up your holiday and protect your family and home over the years, yet you expose them to more wear and tear than other products when you string them around your tree, furniture and take them in and out of storage each year.
Keep a Safe Home for Holiday Guests and Children
Consider what may be in a child’s reach or limit an older guest’s mobility. Move ornaments and decorations with small pieces and sharp edges out of reach. Remember children are curious and may pull at decorations or small broken lights found under a tree or plastic packaging you may have dropped while wrapping gifts. A child could find these, put them in their mouth and choke or suffocate – the worst thought for the holiday season.
Look beyond your holiday decorations as well. You may not be able to see all the hazards, so think about how your home products are powered. For example, flashlights and electric holiday lights may contain small button batteries, which a young child could find and swallow. So may your remote controls, including those you use to manage your holiday lights, and these can be too easy for children to open. You may treasure the holiday cards you receive, but these can also tempt children. Tuck away cards with removable pieces.
It is critical to think about fire prevention, especially before you invite guests into your home. Take a moment to test your smoke alarms. As we mentioned above, keep holiday decorations away from working fireplaces and stoves. Turn these appliances off when you have guests over and skip candle use for holiday ambiance or at the holiday meal.
Finally, we often hang or position decorations near entrances or hallways where people can enjoy them. This can bring joy, but block access to essential exits if a fire ever broke out. It is best to enjoy these somewhere else and keep all entrances and hallways clear.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury Lawyers
Breakstone, White & Gluck specializes in personal injury law, representing those who have been injured or killed by negligence across Massachusetts, including in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and Arlington.
With more than 100 years combined experience, our lawyers have been recognized among the top personal injury attorneys in Massachusetts and New England. We represent clients in all areas of personal injury law, including injuries and wrongful death resulting from defective products.
If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or use our contact form.
Don’t Rush; Reminders to Help Massachusetts Families Buy Safe Holiday Toys in 2021
Many of us are feeling quite stressed about holiday shopping as we watch the news. Still, when you shop for a child, safety is essential. Slow down and look for a fun, safe and age-appropriate toy that will bring joy, not injury, into your home.
Read Age-Appropriate Warning Labels, Toy Packaging and Online Descriptions
You may think you are buying a safe because the toy was featured on a morning news program or has received top reviews online. But despite your best intentions, you may not actually be purchasing the same toy. To avoid buying a so-called counterfeit toy, look for reputable sellers, such as department stores. Try to purchase from brick-and-mortar stores.
Before purchasing or at home, closely examine the packaging on the toy and make sure it matches the manufacturer’s online description. If you purchased the toy online, the toy packaging should also match the description on Amazon or the online marketplace. Once the toy arrives, open and inspect the box contents.
Everything should be consistent, including the age-recommendation labels.
Check for Toy Recalls
The packaging is a tool to help you shop, as is the CPSC website, which you can check for toy safety recalls. In addition to recalling toys, the CPSC has also recalled many inclined infant sleepers over the past two years. Last summer, the commission approved a new federal safety standard for infant sleep products which will take effect in mid-2022. Here is one of our recent blogs on infant sleep products.
U.S. Toy-Related Injuries and Deaths by Age 2018-2020
No one wants to think about the possibility of a child suffering an injury while playing with their own toys. Yet this is a risk in when so many toys are sold online through Amazon, Ebay and other online marketplaces. Independent sellers can sell on these sites or quickly build their own websites, optimize them in the search engines, then close sites down.
Between 2018 and 2020, 50 children were killed in toy-related accidents across the U.S., according to CPSC data released in May 2021. Many children suffered suffocation and other injuries in accidents involving toys with small parts, balls, stuffed animals or accessories. Two children drowned on water toys. Seven children died in accidents involving non-motorized scooters and two were killed on nonmotorized riding toys.
In 2020, nine children were killed and nearly 150,000 children age 14 and younger were treated for toy-related injuries in hospital ERs. Here is a breakdown of toy-related injuries by age during 2020:
- Children under 5 suffered 40 percent of all toy-related injuries.
- Children age 12 and younger suffered 73 percent of toy-related injuries.
- Children age 14 and younger suffered 75 percent of toy-related injuries.
Common Toy Shopping Mistakes
As we have discussed, you can reduce the risk of injury in your household by reading age recommendations and carefully inspecting toys and packaging. But you can also challenge yourself if you have these thoughts:
Buying Holiday Toys Because Just They Are Available or Priced Right
Earlier this month, the Toy Association shared positive news: 76 percent of parents surveyed said they read age recommendations before buying toys.
However, many can be swayed. About 65 percent of parents said they may buy a counterfeit/knock-off toy if their first choice was unavailable. Meanwhile, 63 percent said they could be influenced by a lower price.
Buying Outside Age-Recommendations for Toys
“This toy is marked age 8 and older, but my 5 ½ year old is up for challenging toys .” Sound familiar? The Toy Association reports 68 percent of parents share this thought and would buy a toy outside age recommendations.
Consider age-recommendation labels an important tool, designed to protect your child from choking, an eye or head injury or a broken bone. Age recommendations are not arbitrary; they are based on a toy’s performance under federal toy safety requirements.
For example, toys with small parts or balls have to undergo the “small parts cylinder” test. The cylinder has a diameter of 1.25 inches, with a slanted bottom opening 1 to 2.25 inches. If a toy or small part passes through the cylinder, it has to carry an age-warning label that states, “Choking Hazard – Small Parts. Not for Children Under 3 Yrs.” Read more about the small parts regulations for toys.
Read more in our Project KidSafe toy safety series.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Product Liability Attorneys
Founded in 1992, Breakstone, White & Gluck has recovered millions of dollars in compensation for victims of negligence and wrongdoing in Massachusetts. Consistently recognized by Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers, our personal injury lawyers specialize in product liability, holding companies responsible for injuries and wrongful death caused by defective products, toys and vehicles.
Breakstone, White & Gluck is located in 2 Center Plaza in Boston, across the street from the Government Center T stop and Boston City Hall. If you have been injured, Breakstone, White & Gluck offers a free legal consultation. Learn your legal rights by calling and speaking with one of our attorneys today at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
The Boppy Company Recalls 3.3 Million Newborn Loungers Linked to Deaths
The Boppy Company has now recalled 3.3 million newborn loungers after the deaths of 8 infants. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and The Boppy Company announced the recall on September 23, 2021. Parents are urged to immediately stop using these products and to remove them from their homes.
The infants reportedly suffocated after being placed on their back, side or stomach in these loungers. The deaths were reported between December 2015 and June 2020.
The recalled products include:
- Boppy Original Newborn Loungers
- Boppy Preferred Newborn Loungers
- Pottery Barn Kids Boppy Newborn Loungers
Prior to the recall, The Boppy Company sold the loungers from January 2004 through September 2021 for $30-$44. A total of 3.3 million loungers were sold in the U.S., including by Amazon, Walmart, Target and Pottery Barn Kids. Another 35,000 infant loungers were sold in Canada. The newborn loungers were sold in a number of colors and measured about 23 inches long, 22 inches wide and 7 inches high. Consumers can contact the company for a refund.
In the CPSC’s announcement, The Boppy Company said the infant lounger was not marketed as an infant sleep product and included warnings against unsupervised use. But the CPCS noted the loungers and pillow-like products are not safe near infants, who sleep so much and can quickly suffocate if they roll or turnover.
The CPSC emphasized babies should sleep on their backs, on a firm and flat surface in a crib, free from any blankets, pillows or padded crib bumpers.
The CPSC has been actively investigating the hazards of infant sleep products. On April 5, 2019, the CPSC and Fisher-Price issued a shocking consumer warning, stating that 10 infants, all 3 months or older, had died rolling over in the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play sleepers. Parents were initially urged to stop using the products when children turned 3 months or started to turn.
A week later, more than 30 reports of infant fatalities had emerged. On April 12, 2019, after nearly 10 years of sales, Fisher-Price issued a full recall of 4.7 million Rock n’ Play sleepers and warned parents to stop using the product.
The Washington Post later reported Fisher-Price had developed the Rock ‘n Play product after consulting one physician and had not conducted any clinical research. The newspaper would also report the number of infant deaths had risen to 90.
Infant Sleep Product Recalls and Deaths After the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play
After the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play recall, the CPSC announced several other infant sleeper recalls for products made by Kids II, Summer Infant, Graco and other companies. In June 2021, the CPSC announced another Fisher-Price recall for the 4-in-1 Rock ‘n Glide Soother, and warned that four infants had died while using the product between April 2019 and February 2020. This product went on the market in 2014 and 120,000 units were sold in the U.S.
At the same time, the CPSC announced the recall of 55,000 Fisher-Price 2-in-1- Soothe ‘n Play Gliders between November 2018 and May 2021. No fatalities were reported in association, but the CPSC warned consumers that, “Inclined products, such as gliders, soothers, rockers and swings are not safe for infant sleep, due to the risk of suffocation.”
In 2019, the CPSC released initial findings on infant sleep product research.
New Safety Standard For Infant Sleep Products
In June 2021, the CPSC approved a new federal standard for infant sleep products. Beginning next year, products intended or marketed for infant sleep must meet this new mandatory standard. Under the new standard, if an infant sleep product does not meet a current CPSC sleep standard, it must be tested to ensure the sleep surface angle is 10 degrees or less. The Fisher-Price Rock n’ Play had a 30-degree incline. Moving forward, infant sleep products must also comply with the CPSC’s safety standard for bassinets and cradles.
As the CPSC implements the new safety standard, the agency is also offering parents tips for putting infants to sleep safely. This starts with setting up your child’s sleep and play areas for safety.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Product Liability Lawyers
The Boston product liability lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck have more than 100 years combined experience representing those injured or killed by defective products. If you or a loved one have been injured by a company’s negligence, learn your legal rights. Contact our law firm at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form. Read More
Helping Children Remember Bicycle Helmets During Back to School
For many children, back to school means back to the school bus. But more and more, many students are walking or biking to school.
Back to school is a good time to introduce children to bicycle safety and this year, Breakstone, White & Gluck was pleased to partner with the Waltham and Arlington police departments to give helmets to children.
On Saturday, August 28th, the Waltham Police Department gave away free Project KidSafe helmets to children at the “Meet the New Chief Day.” The Arlington Police Department also gave away free helmets at Bicycle Safety Day on August 24th at Gibbs Junior High School, where many students walk or bike each day to class.
Our Tips to Help Children Wear Bicycle Helmets Back to School This Fall in Massachusetts
A new school year means a new routine. Whether you or your child ride daily or on occasion, we urge you to commit to wearing a helmet.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wearing a properly fitted helmet is the “single most effective way” to reduce head injuries and fatalities resulting from bicycle crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports the majority of cyclists who ultimately die after a bike crash first sustained a head injury as their most significant injury.
Children Must Wear Bicycle Helmets Under Massachusetts Law. Under Massachusetts law, cyclists who are 16 and younger are required to wear helmets when riding a bicycle. Helmets should be properly fitted and meet the safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Beyond safety, there are other consequences. A police officer can actually impound your child’s bike for up to 15 days if they are caught riding without a helmet in Massachusetts, though many officers work hard to avoid this step and would rather encourage helmet use.
Why Parents and Adult Cyclists Should Wear Helmets. Cyclists of all ages should wear helmets to protect themselves.
As a parent, if you wear a helmet and make sure your child wears one when you ride together, your child will take notice. They are more likely to wear a helmet even when you are not there and they will have some practice at fastening their own helmet.
Label Your Child’s Helmet. Write your child’s name inside the helmet, on the strap or on the outside of the helmet.
Wear Your Helmet; Do Not Carry It In Your Backpack. Many children (and adults) ride, then put their helmets in their backpack while they are at work or school. Encourage your child to keep their helmet outside their backpack so they put it right on.
Buy a Durable Bike Lock. Purchase a durable bike lock in case your child cannot find their helmet and has to walk or get a ride home from school or a friend’s house. Keep this on their bike at all times. Insist that your child should contact you and never ride without a helmet.
Buy Your Child a Spare Bike Helmet. Purchase your child an extra bicycle helmet now before they misplace theirs. Unless you live near a bike shop, it can be difficult to step away from your routine to go purchase a bike helmet right away, especially during the busy Fall season.
At the same time, purchase a spare helmet for yourself, too. Keep your spare at home or at the office. This will come in handy if you damage your helmet, lose it or decide you want to take the Blue Bikes bikeshare home.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury Attorneys
With more than 100 years combined experience, Breakstone, White & Gluck has been consistently recognized as a top-rated Boston personal injury law firm. Our attorneys specialize in representing those injured by negligent driving, bicycle accidents, premises liability accidents, defective and unsafe products, construction accidents, medical malpractice and wrongful death.
If you have been injured, learn your rights. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
Essential Safety Tips for Massachusetts Homeowners with Backyard Swimming Pools
Over the past year, many of us have missed out on seeing friends and loved ones. If you are planning a summer gathering to make up for lost time, we urge you to consider water safety, especially if you own a backyard swimming pool.
With Massachusetts schools about to start summer break, there is a high level of distraction in many homes. Households may have family members working remotely and summer may add to the unpredictable schedules we established during the COVID-19 emergency. But you must be vigilant if you own a pool because the risk for injury is very real. One can drown quickly, in a matter of seconds, and those injured are often young children.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an average of 397 children were killed in swimming pool or spa submersions each year from 2016 to 2018. These children were all under 15 years old. During the same period, there was also an annual average of 6,200 children under 15 treated at hospitals for non-fatal injuries associated with pool or spa submersions.
Already in Massachusetts this year, we have seen several lives lost or nearly lost to drownings in swimming pools, ponds and lakes. In this blog, we focus on how homeowners can reduce the risk for injury and drowning in backyard swimming pools, and their legal responsibilities.
Massachusetts Property Owners Have a Duty to Use Reasonable Care
In Massachusetts, homeowners have a responsibility to use reasonable care to keep their property in reasonably safe condition. When it comes to swimming pools, a property owner’s duty starts with following Massachusetts building regulations to secure pools. They must also maintain safe areas around pools.
It is paramount that Massachusetts homeowners also exercise caution with alcohol. Homeowners can reduce the risk for many drownings and injuries by simply limiting their own alcohol consumption and that of all their guests of legal drinking age. Minors should never be allowed to consume alcohol or a homeowner can face criminal charges and a civil lawsuit if someone is injured.
Secure Your Swimming Pool With Strong Fencing
In Massachusetts, the state building code requires property owners to secure swimming pools behind 4-foot high fencing. There are different specifications for above-ground and underground pools, along with pools that use one side of the home as part of the fence.
Pools must be secured with locking devices that face outward away from the pool. The locks must be self-closing and self-latching.
Keep Pool Areas Free From Hazards
Be aware of other potential hazards beyond your actual pool. Your pool area may have outdoor furniture, rafts and floats, a diving board or a slide. One way to prevent a pool-related injury is to limit pool accessories. Secure the products you buy out of sight when you are not using your pool.
We caution you about purchasing diving boards and slides. Accidents involving these products can be serious, resulting in a head injury or a spinal cord injury, which can lead to long-term disability or death. Many homeowners have decided these are just not worth the potential safety risk.
Recognize that these products can be poorly designed or incorrectly installed. A product may not be the right fit for your pool design or reliably support your guests, even if it meets CPSC safety standards. However, if you choose to make a purchase, you should always hire an experienced pool professional to assist you with installation and your homeowner’s insurance agent to make sure your policy provides coverage.
Protect Young Children
In Massachusetts, property owners are responsible for securing pools from young children. Property owners can be held liable for drowning or other injuries suffered by young children, whether they are invited guests or are trespassing. The law recognizes that young children may not understand when they approach a potential hazard. As a property owner, think about how your pool looks from the street, from your yard and from inside your home. Bright-colored rafts and large crowds can quickly capture a child’s attention. Then think about how you have secured your pool.
Keep Gatherings Small
When you invite guests over, keep gatherings small so you can observe the pool area and enjoy the company.
Closely Monitor Guests Near Your Swimming Pool
Never invite anyone over to your home to use your swimming pool when you are not there or are engaged in another activity, such as work. Ask if adult guests know how to swim and if children have attended swimming lessons.
If you have young children, commit to watch them and any friends they invite over closely, even if they are not using your pool. Limit the size of gatherings so you can give the children your full attention.
Make the same commitment to safety if you are the parent of a teenager, even if you normally give them more freedom. Set summer rules and make sure your teen understands: they can only have friends over when you are home and gatherings should be kept small. They should always ask before using the swimming pool and you will not permit alcohol.
Whenever you have any guests over, check that your pool is fully secured before they arrive. Not just from outside, but also from guests and children in your home and backyard. Once your guests arrive, it can help to utilize a pool camera, sounding alarm or other technology, even if no one is using the pool. You can also take the low-tech approach of sitting outside where you can see both the pool and the gate. This step shows your guests and children you are truly committed to safety and want them to have fun, but also act responsibly so everyone gets home safely.
Restrict Alcohol Consumption by Your Guests; Never Allow Teens to Drink At Your Home
Carefully consider whether you want to allow your guests to consume alcohol in your home, especially when they come over to swim or are driving. This decision comes with a lot of responsibility. The easiest approach is to not allow alcohol consumption. If you do allow your guests to drink, practice moderation and good judgment. Never let them drive home under the influence.
As for swimming, remember that alcohol and pools are a dangerous combination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol use is involved in up to 70 percent of deaths associated with all water recreation. Drinking beer or liquor in the warm weather can contribute to dehydration, which can raise the risk for drowning and submersion injuries.
Massachusetts recognizes social host liability. There can be serious consequences for bad decisions. Homeowners can face criminal charges, including jail time, if they allow minors under 21 to consume alcohol at their home or any property they control, under M.G.L. c. 138 § 34 . Parents can also be criminally charged and convicted if police can prove they left their home and were aware minors were consuming alcohol there in their absence. Minors can also be criminally charged.
In addition to criminal charges, a homeowner can also face a civil lawsuit from those injured as a result of a minor’s alcohol consumption at their home.
Limit Cell Phone Use and Distractions
One can easily become distracted by an email, text or social media and this can be dangerous if you have a pool. If you are checking your cell phone, you could miss the moment someone needs your help. Every second counts when it comes to saving someone from drowning. The best approach is to limit cell phone use and enjoy your guests. Keep both your home and cell phone nearby, but for emergencies only.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury Attorneys
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our attorneys provide aggressive representation and are committed to achieving the best result for clients. Founded in 1992, our personal injury law firm specializes in representing those injured by the negligence or wrongdoing of others and our attorneys have been consistently recognized by Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America. We have won numerous record-setting verdicts and settlements in negligence, product liability and medical malpractice cases in Massachusetts. We offer safety tips as part of our Project KidSafe campaign, through which we work to prevent injuries to children and families.
If you or a family member has been injured, learn your legal rights. We represent clients across Massachusetts, including in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Quincy, the North and South Shores, Cape Cod, Worcester and Central Massachusetts. For a free legal consultation, contact one of our Boston personal injury lawyers at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
Brain Injury Awareness Month: Simple Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Children
Each March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) observes Brain Injury Awareness Month to highlight new research on injury prevention.
This is a good time for parents to reflect upon what you can do to protect yourselves and your children from a concussion. To start, you can purchase a bicycle helmet for your child and buckle them up in an age-appropriate car seat. Before you sign up for youth sports, really learn about the activity and consult your child’s pediatrician. The CDC recently shared this study, which suggests non-contact or flag football programs may be safer for children under 14 because there are fewer head impacts.
You can also commit to learn how to recognize the symptoms of a concussion so you can properly respond and seek medical attention for your child. This is an ongoing learning process which gets stronger, through conversation with your pediatrician, your child’s school and with your own family members.
Wear a Helmet. In Massachusetts, your child is required to wear a protective helmet while riding a bicycle or scooter. Read our blog, “How to Fit a Bicycle Helmet.” We also share some resources on Massachusetts helmet laws at the bottom of this webpage.
Massachusetts Concussion Protocol for Students. Before each season, your child’s middle or high school has a responsibility to share information about the Massachusetts youth sports concussion law with you.
Massachusetts law requires schools to develop concussion safety programs and provide training for students, parents, coaches and others on how to identify concussion symptoms. Schools must also explain the protocol for removing a student who has been injured from play.
Students suspected of having a concussion must see a doctor and must receive a doctor’s note before returning to practice or a game. It is essential to understand just how your school or coach will communicate with you.
No one ever wants to think about their child possibly suffering an injury. But the state protocol is largely about taking steps to prevent an injury and how to identify potential injuries. This is essential reading that will help you protect your child. Take time to read if even if you have already seen these materials in the past. Also take time to share and discuss this information with your spouse, baby sister or family members who care for your child.
Learn more about the Massachusetts concussion guidelines for student athletes and the CDC’s Heads Up Concussion page.
Commit to Watch for Symptoms. There are some situations when it is clear a parent should seek medical attention for their child. For instance, if your child’s school alerts you or if your child was injured in a car accident, those are your warnings.
However, the symptoms of a concussion may be less clear when children are injured while playing at home or other situations. To help you learn the signs, we have compiled a list of physical, emotional and sleep-related symptoms which may indicate you should contact your child’s pediatrician on our concussion webpage. These are compiled from the CDC web page on concussion symptoms.
Please consider the symptoms collectively, along with your child’s recent activities on the sports field or playing at home or with friends. If you have reason for concern, make the decision to contact your child’s pediatrician or visit the emergency room.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury Lawyers
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our personal injury lawyers have extensive experience representing those who have suffered concussions, second-impact concussions and brain injuries. Over the past three decades, our attorneys have counseled and guided many clients to the financial results they need to recover from these complex injuries. For a free legal consultation, contact us at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676.
In addition to our work, Breakstone, White & Gluck works to help children and families protect against head injuries through our Project KidSafe campaign. We have proudly given away more than 30,000 bicycle helmets to children across Massachusetts. To learn more, visit www.bwglaw.com/bikes.
Children Have Suffered More Dog Bite Injuries During Pandemic
Research published in the Journal of Pediatrics reports a 3x increase in children seeking care for dog bite injuries at a Colorado hospital during the pandemic. The researchers noted that this trend likely spread beyond this one hospital.
In January 2019, the hospital reported 3 dog bite injuries per 1,000 ER visits. Over April and May of 2019, the rate increased. In July 2019, the rate reached a peak of 7 dog bite injuries per 1,000 ER visits.
Fast forward to January 2020, which also saw 3 dog bite injuries per 1,000 ER visits – same as the previous January. By May 2020, there were about 13 dog bite injuries per 1,000 ER visits. Dog bite injuries continued to rise after Colorado lifted its stay-at-home order that April.
A New York Times article attributed the rise in part to so-called pandemic puppies. Owners may not have planned to bring these pets home during 2020. In some cases, these were complete impulse decisions. Who expected to be home this long? Because of that, owners may not have been prepared to train and care for puppies. There was also decreased access to dog trainers.
Children had increased exposure to puppies during those shelter in place days. Children usually have more contact with dogs when finish school for the summer. Here, children began spending more time with dogs in March of 2020. As children stayed home, parents struggled to balance home-schooling and their own jobs and may not have been supervising children near dogs as closely.
Dog bites are traumatic and can be life-threatening for young children. At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our personal injury lawyers know no one completely realizes how vicious a dog can be when it attacks. Training a dog is one step to help prevent a dog attack. Just as important is keeping a dog on a leash at all times. You never know what may trigger your dog to bite or attack. Even well behaved and calm dogs have unexpectedly attacked young children. One incident can be all it takes to change a child’s life forever.
A 2020 study shows just how important it is for parents or relatives to factor in a child’s age when bringing home a dog. Children under 11 were three times more likely than older children to be admitted to the hospital, according to the study, which was authored by a physician at UMass Memorial Medical School in Worcester. Younger children were also more likely to be admitted to the hospital.
Children age 1 through 10 were more likely to suffer open wounds to the head, neck and lower body. The study reviewed more than 6,300 hospital admissions from the Kids’ Inpatient Database during 2006, 2009 and 2012. One third of the patients had injuries so severe they required surgery.
Tips to Keep a Safe Dog After COVID-19
If you have a dog, we suggest the following tips to protect your children, family and neighbors from a dog bite injury:
- Always keep your dog leashed and under control when you are outside your home.
- Continue to limit guests to your home as COVID-19 restrictions get lifted.
- Secure your dog when guests come over.
- Do not leave your dog alone with your children or other children.
- Be aware that younger children have a higher likelihood of injury to their neck or head.
- Also be aware that many children suffer dog bites from their family pet or from pets they know well.
- Train your dog and socialize them.
- Consult your veterinarian or a dog trainer.
- Walk your dog outside on a leash a few times a day so it can get some exercise.
- Give your dog some personal attention each day.
- Recognize that dogs may be more likely to bite when they are gathering or protecting belongings. This is called “resource guarding.”
- Build a fence.
If you brought home a pandemic puppy, you have some planning to do since your dog has limited exposure to other people. Keep your dog on a leash when outside or when you have guests over. With all dogs, it is critical to ease your dog back into the social experience of being around guests at your home, including close friends and extended family members.
Building a fence in your backyard may also be a good spring project. A fence keeps your dog out of sight from your neighbors and their children. When children see a dog, they are more likely to want to approach and pet it. But as a dog owner, you must remember it’s devastating for a child to suffer a dog bite injury. The law on liability is also strict in Massachusetts. You can be held liable if your dog bites a young child, even if the child went onto your property without permission. The law recognizes that young children may not realize they are stepping toward danger. Your dog doesn’t have to have a history of dog bites or attacks for you to be held liable.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Dog Bite Attorneys
If you have been injured by a dog or want to learn more about Massachusetts law concerning a dog owner’s responsibilities, visit our website. Each of our partners has more than 30 years of experience representing children and others injured by dog bites and dog attacks. We are here to advise you on your rights for seeking compensation for your child or yourself.
For a free legal consultation, contact our dog bite lawyers at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
Tips for Sledding Safely in Massachusetts
February has delivered perfect sledding weather for Massachusetts families. But before you head out with your children, remember the risk for injuries can rise during outdoor winter activities. Sledding, skating and skiing push our bodies beyond our daily routines as we face the elements of cold weather, snow and ice.
More than 20,000 children are treated for sledding injuries on average each year, according to the National Safety Council. Children can be injured when a sled hits a stationary object, in collisions with other sledders or by flipping or falling off their sled. Sledding accidents such as these can result in broken bones, lacerations, bruises, concussions, head injuries or more serious injuries.
You can protect your children by sledding with them and teaching them safety fundamentals by example. Please read our tips and enjoy a fun and safe sledding experience:
Choose a Safe Sledding Spot
After asking friends for suggestions and searching online, visit a few local sledding hills on your own, without your children. Walk to the top of the sledding area. Check your cell phone service from that point. Sledding hills may look similar, but they are not all equal. Choose a sledding area that is free from trees or rocks that could cause your child injury. Avoid hills that are too close to streets and parking lots.
Look for sledding hills that are snow-covered, not ice-covered.
A walkthrough is particularly useful for parents of young children, who are most vulnerable to the cold. Time your walk and compare this to your child’s regular play time in the snow and their physical capabilities. Think about whether your child can the hill – both the steepness for sledding and walking up the hill.
Sled During The Day. There is less visibility and colder temperatures at night. Your best approach is to sled during the day, when the sun is out.
Sled With Your Children and Supervise
Sled as a Family. Plan at least one sledding day for your family each year. Besides being a lot of fun, this will create special memories. Sledding is also great way to get some fresh air and exercise for children, which we all need during the winter months.
Sled with Your Child and Their Friends. If your child or teenager wants to sled with friends, go along and watch. Enjoy this time but consider it a parenting assignment. You should really watch them just as you would if they were swimming, with your full attention. Keep your cell phone and a first aid kit within reach.
Sledding Manners. Teach your children to use good manners on the sledding hill. Even if there are no formal rules posted, your children should walk up the hill along the side of the sledding area. When sledding, they should not overcrowd sledders or attempt to run into them on the course. Once they reach the bottom of the hill, children should step off their sled.
When children are having fun, they may not realize how cold they are or be able to tell you.
Before you sled, make sure your child is wearing a warm winter coat, snow pants, hats, gloves or mittens. Purchase waterproof clothing. Your child should be warm and clothes should fit comfortably.
Take scarves off children before sledding. Also remove strings from clothing and accessories which can cause strangulation or get caught while your child sledding.
Safe Sleds and Helmets
Wear a Helmet. Encourage children to be aware of their surroundings and stay in control of their sleds as a good starting point to safety. Parents should also buy young children helmets to protect against head injuries. The Consumer Product Safety Commission advises parents can purchase helmets which meet the ASTM F14922 or Snell N-942 safety standard. If you have questions, we suggest you check the CPSC website which offers guidance on helmet designs for different activities. Another resource is your pediatrician. Ask for their specific suggestion for protecting your child.
Check Your Sleds. If you see sharp edges or cracks, replace your child’s sled.
Purchase a Safe Sled. There are many types of sleds: snow tubes, saucers or toboggans. Read age recommendations and product safety labels. Look for sleds which can be steered or have handles. Specifically look for ropes. While many sleds come with ropes, you can purchase sleds without any to protect young children against strangulation or getting caught on something.
Before you purchase a sled, make sure to check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website for safety recalls. Sleds can be designed with defects, such as faulty brakes on higher end models.
No Make-Shift Sleds. Do not allow your child to make their own sled out of furniture, cardboard or household objects. These products are not designed to carry your children on the snow.
Safe Sledding Techniques
Sledding Techniques. Pull your sled up next to theirs and show your children how to ride their sleds safely. Children should generally sit, hold the handles and ride face-forward down the hill. They should not ride stomach down or face first because they could flip or fall off. This can cause serious head or spinal cord injuries.
Riding Alone or Together? It’s a lot of fun to sled with your children or watch them ride together. The key is to find the right sled for the right number of sledders. And of course, the right hill!
Adults can pull young children. But for the most part, children should sled alone as they get older. It is important for them to steer their own sleds and hold on for themselves.
If you want to purchase a sled or tube that carries more than one child or adult, that’s a special experience. Read the manufacturer’s age recommendations, safety warnings and instructions. Look for a few online videos.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury Lawyers
Breakstone, White & Gluck is pleased to share our sledding tips as part of our Project KidSafe campaign. Through Project KidSafe, our goal is to help families protect against child injuries.
Breakstone, White & Gluck is a top-rated Boston personal injury law firm, with more than 100 years combined experience. We represent clients in personal injury cases in Boston and across Massachusetts. If you have been injured by someone else’s negligence, contact us for a free legal consultation at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.