Articles Tagged with Boston

As we continue our 2017 Project KidSafe campaign, Breakstone, White & Gluck wants to share a few recent bike helmet donations and some bicycle safety tips for children over the Memorial Day weekend.

norwood-police-2017Breakstone, White & Gluck was pleased to donate 100 bicycle helmets to the Norwood Police Department for the third year. Attorney David W. White delivered the helmets to Norwood Police Chief William G. Brooks III in early May. The Norwood Police Department now plans to distribute the helmets at a bike safety event being planned for June. If you live in Norwood, watch local community calendars.

It was also our pleasure to donate 170 bicycle helmets to Bikes Not Bombs in Jamaica Plain. Founded in 1984, Bikes Not Bombs works to repair used bikes locally and internationally to help individuals. This was the fifth year we have made this donation.

In Boston, Bikes Not Bombs offers a popular Earn-A-Bike program, which teaches children and teenagers how to ride in the city and repair bikes during a six-week session. Students are taken on group rides and get to help refurbish a bike to take home. Each graduate also takes home a new bicycle helmet from our Project KidSafe campaign.

In addition to Earn-A-Bike, Bikes Not Bombs offers other programs for teenagers in the Boston area, aimed at helping them learn safe cycling skills and bike repair. These programs include Girls in Action and BOCA, a program which combines cycling and community action.

You may see a Bikes Not Bombs tent at local community events this Spring and Summer. The organization collects and rehabs bikes for people without access to transportation in Africa, Latin America and Caribbean. Bicycles provide a means of transportation and help individuals fight political oppression and rebuild communities. If you have an extra bike, consider making a donation. Learn more on the Bikes Not Bombs website.

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Graduates of Bikes Not Bombs’ Earn-A-Bike program in April 2017. Breakstone, White & Gluck was pleased to donate new bike helmets.

Through our Project KidSafe campaign, Breakstone, White & Gluck has donated over 10,000 bicycle helmets to children in the Boston area since 2013. During the fifth year of our campaign, our goal continues to be to encourage children to wear a helmet every time they ride.

Study after study has shown wearing a helmet is the most effective way to protect you or your child from a head injury if you fall or are in a bicycle accident. Yet studies also show children are not always wearing helmets, even though many states have laws requiring helmet use for children. In Massachusetts, the law says children who are 16 years old and younger must wear helmets.

Earlier this month, the Today Show reported more than 400,000 kids are hurt each year while riding bikes, scooters, skateboards and skates or roller blades. Of the children injured on bikes, only 68 percent were wearing bike helmets, according to their parents.


As we approach the Memorial Day weekend, here are some reminders for helping young cyclists ride safe:

  • Wear a bicycle helmet. Select a helmet for your child which meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission standard. Properly adjust it so it has a snug fit and will provide protection in case of a fall or a bicycle accident. If you need help, there is an instructional video on our website. Then, tell your child it is important to wear a helmet every time they ride. Be sure to wear your helmet, too. These last two steps are the most important.
  • Wear neon and bright colors. Stock your child’s drawers up with neon t-shirts and other clothing. You want to help your child stand out to traffic, pedestrians and other cyclists. Search “neon clothing” on Amazon.com for ideas.
  • Ride with your children. Enjoy cycling with your children and teach them safe riding techniques at the same time.
  • Control your bicycle. Keep both hands on your handlebars and tell your child to do the same. Keep school backpacks light or use a bike basket. Encourage children to always look ahead and not turn around to talk to you or other cyclists while pedaling.
  • No cell phone use. Do not let your child ride with their cell phone. If they must, make sure it is packed away in a backpack and turned off.  Cell phone use is likely to lead to a bicycle accident.
  • Check equipment. Before they ride, check your child’s bike. Make sure tires are properly inflated and that the brakes work.
  • Avoid riding at night. Children should not ride at night until they are older and have more experience on the roads. If you ride at night, be aware that you are required to use lights and reflectors under Massachusetts law.

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25 mph speed limit sign in Boston, MassachusettsOver the past year, Boston, Cambridge and several other communities have lowered default speed limits from 30 to 25 mph, with a goal of creating safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists. Now it is Quincy’s turn.

Last week, the Quincy City Council passed a measure establishing a speed limit of 25 mph, unless another speed limit is posted. The previous speed limit had been 30 mph. Once Mayor Thomas P. Koch signs the new law, officials will decide on an effective date.

In January 2017, the City of Boston dropped its default speed limit from 30 to 25 mph.

Lowering the speed limit was a key part of the Vision Zero Boston campaign, which was launched by Mayor Marty Walsh in 2015. The goal is to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in the City of Boston by 2030, through a combination of efforts, such as reducing speeds, eliminating distracted driving, and improving infrastructure for safer riding, walking and cycling.

While lowering speed limits was a critical step, the City of Boston was unable to act right away.

First, the city had to obtain approval from the state Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker. Baker signed the Municipal Modernized bill in August 2016, which gave Boston, as well as cities and towns across the state, authority to reduce the default speed limit on local roads. 

So far, these communities have reduced speed limits:

  • Boston
  • Cambridge
  • Somerville
  • Arlington
  • Newton
  • Randolph
  • Scituate
  • Quincy (approved by City Council)

Source: The Boston Globe.

Benefits to Slower Speed Limits
There is strong evidence that slower traffic means safer streets. An excellent example is New York City. In 2014, the city lowered speed limits to 25 mph on 90 percent of its streets. Over three years, traffic fatalities have decreased 23 percent and fell to the lowest number in the city’s history in 2016.

Boston city officials say that when crashes happen, faster vehicles are likely to cause the most serious injuries and fatalities. According to the City of Boston website, at 20 mph, there is a 17 percent likelihood that someone will be seriously injured or killed. At 40 mph, there is a 79 percent likelihood. Slower vehicles can be stopped more quickly, and the slower speeds allow for longer reaction times.
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Improper food preparation can lead to food poisoning.

Improper food preparation is one source of food poisoning.

Chicken & Rice Guys shutdown restaurants and food trucks in Boston and Medford earlier this month for more than a week, after 14 people became ill with E. coli. Ten people had to be hospitalized. Given the widespread food poisoning outbreak, it is likely that there will be liability claims against Chicken & Rice Guys for the poisonings.

According to The Boston Globe, the illness was caused by the Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli 0157:H7, the most common strain of E. coli in the United States. The Mayo Clinic reports a person can contract this type of E. coli through:

Attorney David W. White of Breakstone, White & Gluck in BostonThe Metro news website interviewed Attorney David W. White and other legal experts in the wake of Aaron Hernandez’ suicide at Souza Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts this week. Hernandez, a former New England Patriot who once received a $40 million contract extension for five years, had been serving a life sentence in the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. As prosecutors prepared the Odin Lloyd case, they also charged Hernandez with a double murder in Boston in 2012. Hernandez was acquitted on the Boston murder charges just last week in Suffolk Superior Court. As he headed back to prison, his lawyer spoke about hopes for appealing the Odin Lloyd conviction and seeing Hernandez walk free someday.

But Hernandez apparently had no plans for appeal. Come Wednesday morning, he was found hanging from a bed sheet in his cell at the Shirley prison. The state medical examiner concluded the cause of death was suicide by asphyxia from hanging. The football player’s brain will be sent to Boston University researchers who are studying CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease of the brain which can only be diagnosed after death. It has been found in other football players.

The suicide changes everything for Odin Lloyd’s family, who was pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against Hernandez.

During a 2015 trial, Hernandez had been convicted of the first degree murder of Lloyd. Hernandez had an automatic right to appeal to the state’s highest court, the Supreme Judicial Court, but had not completed that appeal. Massachusetts follows a legal doctrine known as abatement ab inito. If someone dies after a conviction but before their appeal is complete, the person’s legal records and convictions are null and void.

“Now that the conviction will be vacated, the family of Odin Lloyd has lost their collateral estoppel claim and they will have to start from scratch to prove he is guilty,” White said in the Metro interview.

Hernandez appeared to have a bright future with the Patriots, then came June 26, 2013. Police arrested him at his North Attleborough home in connection with the murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who had been dating the sister of Hernandez’ fiancee. Less than two hours later, Hernandez was released by the New England Patriots, who had signed him to the $40 million five-year contract extension the previous summer. The contract included a $12.5 million signing bonus. On August 27, 2012, The Boston Globe predicted, “The Patriots are going to have the tight end of duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez at least through the 2018 season.”

Read the article in the Metro (April 19, 2017).

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Boston Attorney Marc BreakstoneAttorney Marc L. Breakstone was quoted as a legal expert in a Boston Herald article titled “In Driver’s Seat With Insurance” (March 31, 2017). NuTonomy, the self-driving car company now testing its hands-free technology in Boston, has taken out a $5 million insurance policy to guard against lawsuits. Earlier this month, a self-driving Uber vehicle was involved in a car accident in Tempe, Arizona. Police found the Uber vehicle was traveling at 38 mph, below the speed limit, when the collision occurred and was not at fault. While there were no serious injuries, the accident has raised concerns.

Attorney Breakstone was asked whether the City of Boston could be held liable if there is an accident involving NuTonomy. He said no, but read his full answer.

Attorney Reza Breakstone has written on the topic of self-driving cars and the legal questions they raise. In 2016, he co-wrote an article titled, “The Self Driving Car: Science Fiction Becomes Reality, Creating a Legal Quandary,” for The Litigator, the official publication of the Capital City Trial Lawyers Association in Sacramento, California.

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

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

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

hoverboardWe saw the worst that can happen last week in Harrisburg, PA when a hoverboard caught on fire in a family’s home, claiming the life of a three-year-old child.

The hoverboard reportedly ignited while charging, destroying the home. The three-year-old girl died at a local hospital and two other girls were left in critical condition. The girl’s father and a teenage boy were treated for smoke inhalation.

This tragedy was compounded by another death; a local firefighter was reportedly killed in a motor vehicle accident while driving to the fire, the victim of an alleged drunk driver who now faces charges.

Britax stroller which was recalled in February 2017As the weather turns warm, parents will be reaching for the outdoor toys and children’s equipment again. Baby strollers are one of the first products to come out.

Before you use a stroller, check if there are any loose or worn parts. Then check if the stroller has been subject to a product recall and caused anyone injury. You can check online now on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

Baby Stroller Recalls. We started with baby strollers because there have been several baby strollers recalled in the past year, including Britax, Aria Child and Phil & Teds strollers. Britax has actually issued two sets of recalls over the past 15 months, one for 60,000 strollers in January 2016 and another for more than 700,000 strollers in February 2017.

Driving talking on a cell phone in car

As attorneys, we have represented hundreds of victims of motor vehicle crashes over the past three decades. In recent years, we have seen texting while driving and cell phone use by drivers multiply at an alarming rate, causing a stunning number of injuries and deaths. These injuries are preventable, but each year, drivers continue to reach for their phones and the toll rises.

According to the US Department of Transportation, cell phones are now involved in 1.6 million auto crashes each year, injuring 500,000 people and causing 6,000 deaths. While many states have already passed legislation to reduce distracted driving accidents, some are now considering additional measures, including Massachusetts.

Massachusetts lawmakers passed the Safe Driving Law in 2010, which banned texting while driving. There was no further action until January 2016, when the Massachusetts state Senate passed a bill banning handheld cell phone use. The ban would have allowed drivers to use hands free technology to dial and talk. According to the State House News Service, the Massachusetts House of Representatives gave initial approval to a similar bill but the legislation stalled.

With Governor’s Comments, Handheld Cell Phone Debate Returns to the News

Massachusetts State HouseThere was no update for several months. Then Governor Charlie Baker spoke in February, indicating he may not support a handheld ban.

“I don’t want to get out of the business of making it possible for people to talk to other people when they’re driving. Because I think the texting thing is a big problem. I’m not sure I believe that the talking thing is,” Baker said during his “Ask the Governor” segment on WGBH Thursday. His comments were published by the State House News Service.

When the show’s co-host noted that drivers could use hands-free Bluetooth devices, Baker said:

“So now we’re just going to let people who can afford to put a Bluetooth in their new car to have the ability to talk when they’re in a car?” Baker responded. “But we’re not going to let anybody else? Hmm. Let me think about that one a little.”

Following the interview, The Boston Herald called on state lawmakers to resume their work to ban handheld cell phones: “Drivers in Massachusetts have proven that when it comes to using their phones behind the wheel they’re incapable of regulating themselves.”

When texting while driving was banned in 2010, texting was the major concern for distracted driving, the Herald wrote. Today, more people have smartphones which offer quick access to social media and other apps.

How Widespread is Texting While Driving in Massachusetts?
Critics say enforcement for Massachusetts’ texting while driving ban is challenging when drivers can hold their phones to talk, but not for other purposes. Police have worked through some of these issues. According to a Boston Globe analysis, Massachusetts police officers wrote 6,131 tickets in 2015, compared to 1,153 in 2011, the first year of the ban. Overall, between late 2010 and mid-April of 2016 when the analysis was published, 18,383 tickets were issued for texting while driving in Massachusetts.

Drivers under 40 years old received the most tickets and many drivers got caught during Distracted Driving Awareness Month, when many local police departments receive safety grants for enforcement.

Where Proposed Legislation Now Stands in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is one of 46 states which have texting while driving laws. Just 14 states also ban handheld cell phone use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut are among the early adopters.

Expect to hear more debate about a handheld cell phone ban in Massachusetts at some point in the future. While Governor Baker has voiced reservations, when the 2017-2018 legislative session began in January, the Massachusetts House of Representatives referred legislation for hands-free cell phone devices to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation.

Where to Find Distracted Driving Safety Campaigns and Information 

No Cell Phone in Car Pledge

Safety campaigns are critical to preventing distracted driving accidents. There are many out there, offering programs for schools and information online.  One effort is from the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys (MATA), which brings its “End Distracted Driving” program to high schools. We support this campaign. Two of our partners, Marc L. Breakstone and Ronald E. Gluck, serve on the MATA Board of Governors. Partner David W. White is a long-time member.

Another effort comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which offers this pledge which family members can sign to promise each other they will not use a cell phone while driving.

 

Distracted Driving Prevention and Safety Campaigns:

Distraction.gov: Official U.S. website for distracted driving.

It Can Wait!: AT&T’s documentary to stop distracted driving.

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Driving on U.S. roads became more dangerous in 2016. Preliminary data from the National Safety Council shows more than 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes last year, a 6 percent increase from 2015.

  • This was the first year more than 40,000 people have died in traffic accidents since 2007.
  • According to The New York Times, 2015 and 2016 saw a 14 percent increase in traffic deaths, the largest two-year increase in more than half a century.