Articles Tagged with “Car accident lawyers”

Teen Driver Safety Week is Oct. 18-24, 2020. Breakstone, White & Gluck is sharing articles to encourage parents and teens to discuss safe driving decisions.

Teen driver wearing a seat beltSeat belts are a simple step for safety. As a parent, you probably remind your child to buckle their seat belt before each ride. But when your teen becomes a licensed driver, you won’t always be there. Still, what you say matters. Teens are twice as likely to wear a seat belt as a driver or passenger when parents set rules and monitor their driving behavior, according to the Teen Driver Source website, which is operated by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Tell your teen you expect them to wear a seat belt whenever they travel in a motor vehicle. This includes when they drive and when they are traveling as a passenger. As a second step, put this in writing. Find a teen driving safety agreement with your teen and state this is one of your expectations. If you catch your teen driving without their seat belt, you can step back their access to the keys until you have a discussion.

Seat belts are required by law. Wearing a seat belt is required by law in Massachusetts. Drivers and their passengers must both wear seat belts.

Seat belts protect against deadly force. The goal isn’t to scare your teen. But the reality is cars, trucks and other vehicles are heavy and powerful machinery. We all need to wear seat belts to protect against the potential force of a car crash.

Seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers by 45 percent, according to Teen Driver Source. They also reduce the risk of moderate to critical injury by 50 percent.

Seat belts also reduce the risk of ejection from the vehicle. Those who do not wear seat belts are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a traffic crash, according to Teen Driver Source. When a person is ejected from their vehicle, they are more likely to die in a crash. This was the case for 3 out of 4 people.

How seat belts prevent injuries. Seat belts are designed to spread crash forces across the stronger bony parts of the body, including the shoulders, rib cage and pelvis, according to the Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). They are also designed to prevent occupants from being ejected from a vehicle.

Drivers and passengers should all wear seat belts – to protect themselves and each other. If there is an accident and one of the vehicle’s occupants is not wearing one, they could be ejected and increase the risk of injury to others in the vehicle.

In a frontal crash, drivers and front passengers are left at an increased risk for injury if the back-seat passengers are not wearing seat belts. Exposure to unbelted occupants increases the risk of injury or death to other vehicles by 40 percent, according to the IIHS.

More People Are Wearing Seat Belts in Massachusetts

The good news is more people appear to be wearing seat belts in Massachusetts. In 2018, the state conducted a seat belt usage observation study, reporting 81.58 percent of drivers and front outboard passengers were observed to be wearing seat belts. This was 7.9 percentage points over the year before and the highest ever observed rate in Massachusetts.

To reach this number, the state observed 28,265 drivers and front outboard passengers in 24,2145 vehicles at 147 observation locations. You can learn more by reading the study.

According to the IIHS and other organizations, states with primary enforcement seat belt laws have higher seat belt use rates. In 2019, the IIHS reported states with primary enforcement laws saw 91 percent seat belt use compared to 86 percent. Massachusetts has a secondary enforcement seat belt law, meaning police can stop drivers for traffic violations, then issue citations for failure to wear seat belts. But police cannot stop drivers just because they are not wearing seat belts.

If you are parent or teen, we hope this is good background information. The point is you should wear your seat belt every time you ride – and encourage others to do the same.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury Lawyers

With more than 100 years combined experience, Breakstone, White & Gluck fights for the rights of those injured by the negligence or wrongdoing of others. Our attorneys specialize in the handling of car accidents, truck accidents and bus collisions in the Boston area. If you have been injured, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, call our attorneys at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.

To learn more about teen driving safety and other topics, please visit our Project KidSafe campaign page.

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20191015-teendrivingMotor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. Each year, National Teen Driver Safety Week highlights safety insights for families and teens. This year, the event runs from October 18-24th. We encourage you to follow the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Teen Driver Source for more information. Teen Driver Source is operated by the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadephia, which offers Facebook and Twitter feeds.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the greatest dangers teen drivers face are: alcohol consumption, inconsistent or no seat belt use, distracted driving, speeding and driving with passengers in the vehicle. This year, COVID-19 has introduced a new concern. Teens are driving far less and risk losing core skills. This is where National Teen Driver Safety Week comes in as an important resource this year.

Driving Safety Contract. If you follow Teen Driver Safety Week, you may learn about teen driver contracts. You can also print this parent-teen driving contract from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Make your own edits and ask your teen to sign as a condition for using your vehicle. Give your teen a copy of the document to file away and review. This is a good way to lay out  expectations for your teens and what will happen if they violate the agreement.

Make Sure Teens Get Enough Driving Time. If teens are not driving as much during COVID-19, they risk falling behind on fundamental skills. To prevent this, encourage your teen to drive regularly. When you go out with your teen, split the driving responsibilities so you know they are logging at least some time behind the wheel and you can monitor their progress.

Hold back judgment and sharp comments if you see some of their skills have regressed. This may happen. Just help them get practice in where they need it. Take advantage of empty parking lots and slower times of the week. You can get them back on track.

Drive Around Town With Your Teen. When you can, walk and drive around your community with your teen, including during the morning and afternoon commutes. This gives your teen a preview of what may come when they pull out of the driveway alone. You may see more pedestrians and cyclists in areas. You may see parking changes and restaurants offering sidewalk service. Share observation with your teens and try to make helpful suggestions to help them drive safely and avoid car accidents.

Stress the Importance of Slowing Down. Speed is a factor in nearly 30 percent of all fatal crashes involving teen drivers, according to AAA. Teens often have a heavy foot on the gas pedal and this only changes as they gain experience. For now, if teens can simply slow down, they can significantly reduce their risk of a collision.

Start by helping your teen recognize speed limits because they are not always posted right in front of them. While they should have learned this in driver’s ed, new drivers can use a reminder from time to time. Massachusetts sets a default speed limit of 30 mph in thickly settled and business areas, unless posted otherwise or an individual community has opted to lower the speed to 25 mph. School zones and work zones are 20 mph.

Encourage your teen to travel at or below the speed limit, especially in residential neighborhoods. By doing so, they reduce their risk of causing a car accident due to inexperience in the first few months or year of driving. They reduce their chance of causing themselves or someone else serious injuries and all the emotions and stress.

Reduce Distractions. Slowing down is the most effective tool for safe driving. It’s also important to reduce distractions. This means setting aside cell phones and limiting conversation with passengers in the vehicle. Sure, your teen is going to engage in discussion with others in the car. But try to make conversation lighter and focus more on observation, such as, “I see cars backing up at the traffic light ahead” or “there is an ambulance coming.” Save heavy discussion for before or after the drive.

Safety Steps Near Pedestrians and Cyclists. Teens may struggle to drive near pedestrians and cyclists. Every few weeks, drive through school zones and busy areas with your teen again, just as a refresher. Show them how you stop at crosswalks for pedestrians and leave room in anticipation of pedestrians. Instead of chatting at traffic lights, use this time to show your teen how to check for cyclists. More and more people have been cycling over the past decade in Massachusetts. This likely increased during COVID-19 and will likely continue. The reality is cars are not the only vehicle on the roads. Cyclists have the right to travel in the road too. You can really help your teen by teaching them to look for cyclists.

Buckling Up. Teens and young adults have the lowest rates of seat belt use, according to the CDC. Almost half of all drivers age 15-20 who died in car crashes were not wearing seatbelts in 2017, according to the CDC. During COVID-19, your teen may go long periods of time without driving or traveling in the car. Remind your teen – and all your family members – to always buckle up.

Boston and Cambridge Car Accident Lawyers – Breakstone, White & Gluck

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston car accident lawyers have over 100 years combined experience representing those injured by negligent driving. If you have been injured in a car accident and someone else was responsible, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact our attorneys at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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Cars and trucks on highways

Recently, there have been several serious multi-vehicle highway accidents in the Boston area.

Many drivers have chosen backroads for the past few months. Now, as more people are driving again, we want to caution you to drive safely on Massachusetts highways. Recently, there have been some serious highway crashes, including multi-vehicle crashes.

Our safety tips for traveling on local highways:

Stay in your lane. Unless you have to move, staying in your lane is easier for you and more predictable to other drivers. You are also less vulnerable if another driver speeds up behind you suddenly.

Follow the speed limit. Always watch for the posted speeds. Expect to travel 65 mph on major highways and 55 mph on others. But remember you have a duty to use reasonable care. Driving safely may mean you have to slow down due to weather or traffic conditions to protect yourself and other drivers. You may also have to slow down if  you approach a crash scene.

Make safe decisions. When you make bad decisions, you increase your chances of causing a car accident. Two very unsafe decisions are drinking and driving and speeding. On a highway, your dangerous decision is likely to cause far more injuries because of the traffic count and high speed. Think about a game of dominoes, without the game part.

Protect yourself near trucks. Try to avoid traveling right near or behind large trucks. If you must, provide them with ample room to avoid a crash.

Be aware that trucks create wind gusts. Keep both hands on the steering wheel and stay focused on the road.

Back off when a truck driver signals a lane change. On highways, the average truck needs an 8-second gap or 700 feet to change lanes, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. This is the length of 2 ½ football fields.

Give emergency vehicles room to work. In Massachusetts, the Move Over Law establishes that drivers have duty to move out of the way of emergency responders and vehicles with flashing lights. You can be fined $100 if you violate this law. You are also likely to be held financially liable if you cause someone injury or property damage to a motor vehicle or a highway fixture, such as a sign or a guardrail.

Do not use cell phones on highways. Distraction and high speeds are not a safe combination. Avoid cell phone use on highways – or at least go hands-free. Picking up your cell phone to call someone and texting while driving are against the law in Massachusetts.


Recent Highway Accidents in Massachusetts

3-Car Crash Kills Young Girl on Route 6 in Westport. Two drivers collided on Route 6 in Westport on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 13. After assessing the damage, they decided to keep driving and to address the situation after clearing the highway. But as the cars started to move, a Jeep Grand Cherokee slammed into the vehicles, one of which was carrying a 10-year-old girl who was killed and her 9-year-old sister, who suffered serious injuries.

7-Vehicle Crash on I-93 in Dorchester. In late August, news outlets reported a tragic multiple car crash on I-93 in Dorchester, just after 7:30 p.m. According to the Cape Cod Times, a 39-year-old female driver hit a highway barrier and an ambulance, then died from her injuries. She was not the only victim. The crash involved a total of 7 vehicles and several people were transported to receive medical care.

Wrong Way Crash Kills 2 in Brockton. Meanwhile in Brockton, a 30-year-old driver allegedly drove in the wrong direction at 3 a.m. Her Volkswagen Jetta struck a Hyandai Santa Fe, colliding and killing two people inside The Brockton car crash occurred on the Reynolds Memorial Highway and as of August 23, was under investigating by the Plymouth County District Attorney’s office and the Brockton Police. A third driver in a Chevy Tahoe was involved in the crash, but refused medical treatment (Source: NBC Boston).

Littleton Truck Crash on Route 2. In July, there was a very serious crash involving a tractor-trailer and two pick-up trucks on Route 2 in Littleton. Surprisingly, no one was injured in the multi-truck crash. However, emergency crews had to close down the eastbound side of the highway to recover the vehicles.

According to WHDH, emergency responders found the tractor-trailer and one of the pick-up trucks off the road on the guard rail. The other pick-up truck was overturned. Police were investigating the cause of the truck crash, according to WCVB-TV.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Car Accident Lawyer

If you have been injured by someone’s negligent driving in Massachusetts, contact the lawyers of Breakstone, White & Gluck in Boston to learn your legal rights. If you have been injured in a multi-car highway crash, this is even more important. Highway crashes may involve several drivers and business vehicles or a large truck. The insurance claim process is complex for the individual drivers and passengers involved. As they attempt to find their way, the companies can mobilize quickly to defend their financial interests. It is vital that you act immediately to protect your rights.

Contact our Boston car accident attorneys for a free legal consultation: 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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Mother securing her baby in the car seat in her carWhile there is so much going on right now, we want to put a spotlight on Child Passenger Safety Week. The safety week began Sunday, Sept. 20th and continues through Saturday, Sept. 26th.

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among children in our country, according to the CDC. Parents, of course, want to protect their children and follow Massachusetts car seat and safety belt laws. But this can be a challenge as children outgrow car seats, especially during COVID-19, when most shopping has to be done online.

We hope parents and grandparents find the resources on this page helpful. Remember, you want to find a car seat that fits your child and your vehicle.  You also want to feel comfortable using it each day. A second-hand car seat may work for you. But for many people, we encourage to you start with a new car seat if you can.

In Massachusetts, children must ride in federally-approved passenger safety seats.  They must ride in a car seat from birth until they reach age 8 or stand more than 57 inches tall. Children must be properly fastened and secured according to the manufacturer’s instructions. But where should you start? This is where parents often grow frustrated, as there are different car seats based on a child’s age and size. We will get you started: Children should start with rear-facing car seats until they reach the top height or weight limit set by the car seat maker. They will then move to a forward-facing car seat, then finally a booster seat.

Here are some resources:

  1. Child Passenger Safety Week. Read safety resources from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  2. Find the Right Car Seat. Check out this NHTSA chart on finding the right car seat.
  3. Massachusetts Car Seat Resources. Most years, the state of Massachusetts and local communities offer free car seat inspections and fittings for parents. This is an invaluable opportunity for parents. Due to COVID-19, you can expect fewer – if any – in-person car seat inspection opportunities. We suggest you start by visiting the state web page. Here is another helpful resource: Massachusetts Car Seat FAQs
  4. Watch a How-To Video. While it may not be the same as an in-person inspection, the NHTSA offers helpful videos to help parents secure children at different stages.
  5. Keeping Asking for Help. If you are still unsure about your car seat, it is alright to keep asking for help. Try asking a family member or friend. You can also try your pediatrician’s office or visit your local police department’s website to see if they are offering car seat inspections at this time.
  6. Check Your Car Seat for Recalls. Check www.cpsc.gov to see if your car seat has been recalled. If you find a recall, call the manufacturer immediately and ask for the recall action. Often, a company will send a replacement part. But they may issue you a refund and ask you to return a defective car seat to a local store. Always follow a manufacturer’s instructions on disposing a recalled product.
  7. Register Your Car Seat. It’s easy to become distracted when you buy a car seat or a major item. Did you forgot to register yours? Take a minute to visit the manufacturer’s website now. Better late than never on this one. If there is a recall, this is the best way to get timely notification.
  8. Buckle Children Up Last. Pack everything up for the day in your car – work bags, backpacks, sports gear and lunch boxes – then buckle your child into their car seat last. This way you can always keep them in sight and talk to them as you get ready.

About Breakstone, White & Gluck – Boston Car Accident Lawyers

With more than 100 years combined experience, Breakstone, White & Gluck represents those have been injured by negligence and wrongdoing in Massachusetts. We specialize in the handling of personal injury, medical malpractice and car accident cases, including the representation of cyclists and pedestrians who have been injured. To learn more about our work, read our Car Accident Case Results page.

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

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Motorcycle accident in Boston, Massachusetts

Massachusetts has seen a number of motorcycle accidents, as riders and other drivers return to the road after COVID-19.

Five months from the outset of COVID-19, many motorcyclists are just getting back on Massachusetts roads. Yet already, we have seen several serious and fatal motorcycle accidents in the Boston area, Cape Cod and across the state, a reminder that riders need a little extra room for safety.

In recent weeks, motorcycle accidents have been reported in North Adams, Westfield, Springfield, Wrentham, Taunton, Dudley, Milton, Randolph and Lynn. Toward Cape Cod, motorcyclists have been injured in Bourne, Hyannis, Lakeville, Randolph and Bridgewater.

All these accidents, coming as the state of Massachusetts re-opens, show the need to emphasize motorcycle safety. Motorcyclists have a responsibility to follow traffic laws and wear helmets and protective clothing. In turn, drivers must pay attention to how close they are to motorcyclists and watch when turning or changing lanes.

Commit to drive safely. Obey speed limits and follow traffic laws to reduce your risk of car accidents and motorcycle collisions. Right now, traffic is unpredictable and schedules are less important. After days of little traffic, you may see several hours of cars and trucks speeding.  Some vehicles are really racing because there are open roads, very light traffic.

First, take a good look at a motorcycle. Motorcyclists operate on two wheels, without the protection of a windshield and a car or truck frame. Because of this, motorcyclists are more likely to be injured should there be a collision on the road. Large trucks are the most dangerous vehicles on the road. They can hit motorcyclists, then drag them under the carriage. Truck accidents injuring motorcyclists are most likely to be fatal. But motorcyclists are highly vulnerable to any unexpected movement, making it important to give them room.

Raise Your Awareness About Motorcycle Accidents

Fatal motorcycle crashes. Motorcyclists are much more susceptible to crashes than other drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclists account for 3 percent of all registered vehicles in the U.S. and just .6 percent of all vehicle miles traveled. Yet, per vehicle, motorcyclists have 6 times the fatality rate as other drivers.

Follow motorcycles at a distance. If you are driving behind a motorcycle, give the driver additional space. More than you would provide any other vehicle. Recognize that drivers are more likely to be involved in a motorcycle accident when making a left turn in front of a motorcyclist.

Never try to anticipate the motorcyclist’s next turn so you can get moving again. Likewise, do not trust the motorcyclist’s blinker. It may not have fully cancelled out after a prior turn or lane change. You just have to be patient.

Broadside collision. When a driver collides with the side of a motorcycle at a high speed, they can seriously injure the motorcyclist. These are also known as T-bone accidents or side impact motorcycle crashes.

Blindspots and mirrors. Use your mirrors as a guide to help you see the motorcyclist. But remember, motorcyclists can be in your blind spot. Even when you see them, you may not understand how far they are actually away from your vehicle. This is another reason to slow down and give riders more space.

Poor visibility. Respect hazardous weather conditions. Be aware that you may have to really look for motorcyclists, slow down and give all motor vehicles more distance.

Road hazards. Give motorcyclists additional time and space when the road surfaces change. For example, aging roads with potholes, construction work zones and railroad tracks.

Obstructed views. Many motorcycle crashes happen because drivers neglect to look. They may be busy or distracted as they back out of a parking lot or approach a turn. Other times, drivers make bad decisions because of obstructed views. They make the decision to turn or go when they don’t have a full view of the road, parking lot, rotary or intersection. There may be a truck blocking their view from behind or an SUV next to them at a traffic light. Make sure you can see the entire road and continually check your side and rearview mirrors to help you see around large trucks.

Safe driving behaviors. We have now reached August, the last month of summer. Enjoy your time, but please use good judgment. We urge you not to operate a motor vehicle or motorcycle while under the influence of alcohol. Drunk driving, distracted driving and operating while fatigued are highly dangerous.  Use caution driving at night, just as you would during the day. You may not realize just how many pedestrians, cyclists or motorcyclists are out this year.

Motorcycle Safety Resources

Finally, if you are a Massachusetts motorcyclist, remember your responsibilities and the resources you have to protect yourself. Under Massachusetts law, motorcyclists are required to wear a helmet when riding to protect themselves from head injuries. Wearing a helmet, along with the right safety gear, is fundamental to protecting yourself. The state of Massachusetts also offers the Motorcycle Ridership Education Program, which offers training for beginning and advanced riders.

Purchasing the right types and amount of auto insurance is also critical for motorcyclists. Read our article, “Massachusetts Motorcyclists: Buy the Right Types of Auto Insurance to Protect Yourself and Your Finances.”

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Motorcycle Crash Lawyers

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston motorcycle accident lawyers represent those who have been injured by negligent or reckless driving. With more than 100 years combined experience, our attorneys have won several major awards for motorcyclists.

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

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

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

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

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

Research on Teen Driving Crashes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Car Accident Lawyers

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

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

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Driver stops for pedestrians in Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just How Slowly Should You Drive?

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

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

Fewer Drivers, Fewer Tickets and Fewer Car Accidents

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

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

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

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

Breakstone, White & Gluck – Boston Car Accident Lawyers

Free Legal Consultation

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

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

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Driver calling on a cell phone

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the law allows and bans:

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

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

First offense: $100 fine.

Second offense: $250 fine and distracted driving education.

Third offense: $500 fine and distracted driving education.

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

Related:

Massachusetts hands-free driving law, Mass.gov


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

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

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red light cameras

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Massachusetts Red Light Camera Legislation 

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

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

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

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

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

History of Opposition for Red Light Cameras in Massachusetts

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

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

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

AAA Recommendations for Red Light Camera Use

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

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

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Woman talking on cell phone in car

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

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

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

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

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

Penalties for violating the Massachusetts hands-free law:

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

What becomes illegal under the Massachusetts hands-free law:

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

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

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

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

Visit the state of Massachusetts web page to learn more.

Our Final Note

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

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury Lawyers

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

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