A dangerous trend has emerged on our roads, cell phones and social media accounts, with the rise of drivers “vlogging,” live-streaming and making video phone calls. In a 2020 survey, more than 20 percent of drivers admitted to recording video on cell phones. This is more than double the response from 2015.
Now, after a cyclist’s tragic death, a local lawmaker is proposing Massachusetts update its hands-free driving law to ban both recording and broadcasting video while driving.
Nationwide, 48 states have banned texting while driving and 24 states have passed hands-free driving laws, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
Massachusetts would join four other states which have banned recording and broadcasting as part of their hands-free laws, according to state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, who has proposed the legislation.
Sen. Comerford proposed “Charlie’s Law” in the wake of a cyclist’s death near Northampton High School in October 2021. A 23-year-old driver is accused of video chatting on the FaceTime app, then running past a stop sign and striking the cyclist in a fatal bike crash, according to local news reports. The driver now faces criminal charges, including negligent motor vehicle homicide. Meanwhile, state lawmakers held the first hearing on Charlie’s Law earlier this month.
Background on Massachusetts Distracted Driving Laws
Looking to prevent injuries and deaths in car accidents, Massachusetts passed a ban on texting while driving in 2010. After many years of debate, lawmakers reached agreement on a more comprehensive hands-free driving law in 2019.
The Massachusetts hands-free driving law took effect in early 2020 and drivers now face fines for violations, starting with $100 for the first offense.
For third and subsequent offenses, drivers face up to $500 in fines and an insurance surcharge. They must also attend a distracted driving education program.
Under the hands-free law, drivers are only allowed to touch mobile phones and electronic devices to quickly activate hands-free mode, when devices are mounted to a windshield, dashboard or center console. Drivers are still allowed to use voice-to-text commands and make phone calls so long as cell phones are properly mounted.
As it stands, the Massachusetts hands-free driving law does not specifically ban drivers from making video conference calls or vlogging activities, such as recording or live broadcasting video of one’s self while driving to post on social media sites. As long as cell phones are mounted, drivers are not violating the law.
Drivers may be cited or charged if police investigate a car crash and find they violated another traffic law, such as a marked lanes violation. But updating the hands-free law – which is a primary enforcement law – may allow police to stop and cite drivers they see using cell phone video features before a crash happens.
Sen. Comerford has proposed S. 2733, “An Act Prohibiting Video Recording or Broadcasting While Driving.” The bill proposes adding language to the existing law stating no operator shall record or broadcast video of themselves on a mobile device, with a few exceptions.
- Drivers would still be allowed to record or broadcast video in an “emergency or exigent circumstance” or “when it is so clearly in the public interest as to override the public safety purpose of this sentence.”
- Dash cams can still be used to record traffic conditions or passengers in a vehicle, but they must be mounted. This allows commercial drivers, Uber and Lyft drivers to continue recording passenger behavior.
More Than Twice As Many Drivers Admitted to Recording While Driving in 2020
In its 2021 Driving While Distracted study, State Farm Auto Insurance reported 22 percent of drivers admitted to recording behind the wheel in 2020, compared to 10 percent in 2015.
Younger drivers were more likely to engage in this behavior:
- Nearly half – 44 percent – of drivers in the 18 to 29-year-old demographic admitted to recording video while driving.
- More than a third of drivers age 30 to 39 admitted the same.
This was not the only increase. State Farm reported 89 percent of drivers – or nearly 9 out of 10 – admitted to engaging in one of the 14 distracted driving behaviors covered in its online survey.
One troubling note was most drivers in states which had passed hands-free driving said they were aware of laws, but one in five were not informed. Six percent of the drivers even said their state did not ban handheld cell phone use.
Contact Breakstone, White & Gluck For a Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury and Car Accident Attorneys
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston personal injury lawyers offer more than 100 years combined experience representing those injured by negligent and reckless driving. Our attorneys work with clients throughout the Boston area, including those who live and work in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Brookline, Arlington and Quincy.
If you have been injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, you may require medical care and have to miss time at work. You may have many questions. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or use our contact form. Our attorneys will review the facts of your case with you and help you determine whether you have a potential claim.
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Nearly 12 years ago, Massachusetts lawmakers passed legislation to develop a concussion safety program for high school athletes. Before they play, student-athletes and their parents must now learn about concussion symptoms. If students are injured, they must follow step-by-step guidelines for recovery. The goal is to make sure students fully heal from concussions.
Just as students have learned about concussions, Brain Injury Awareness Month offers others a chance to learn.
These are essential lessons, helping us care for ourselves and our families. The sooner one identifies potential concussion symptoms, the sooner they can seek a medical evaluation and begin rest and recovery. Below, we write about concussions, symptoms and high-risk situations when one may consider seeking a medical evaluation as a precaution.
What is a Concussion?
A concussion is often called a mild traumatic brain injury or “mild TBI.” A concussion may follow a bump, blow or jolt to the head, or a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There may be no visible bruising, skull fracture or head injury, but the sudden movement can impact the brain’s function.
When one suffers a concussion, they may experience a range of symptoms impacting their health. It can be very difficult to read the symptoms, which may include one or more symptoms:
- memory loss
- feeling groggy
- difficulty sleeping (or sleeping too much)
- mood and behavior changes
- balance problems
- slurred speech
- nausea or vomiting
- decreased coordination
- sensitivity to light
- In adults, one pupil may appear larger than the other.
Symptoms may appear right away or in the hours after a concussion, or they may be delayed a few days and weeks.
One misconception is a person will lose consciousness if they suffer a concussion. This is not always true. In fact, on the sports field, one coach said athletes only lose consciousness in about 10 percent of all concussions cases (Source: Heads Up Video: What is a Concussion?, CDC).
When to Consider Seeking Medical Care
As important as it is to learn about concussion symptoms, there are also times when you should just receive medical care as a precaution. This includes after children’s injuries, sports injuries, car accidents, falls or bicycle accidents.
Children and Student-Athletes
Start learning now before you suspect a possible injury. Look to your child’s pediatrician and school for information on concussion prevention, symptoms and how to respond to a potential concussion. This is important because your child’s brain is going to support them throughout their life and by understanding a few basics, you can minimize their risk of suffering an injury. But if your child does suffer a concussion at some point, what you learn now will help you be ready to help them receive care and fully heal before they start their full routines up again. To help you get started, read our page on the Massachusetts sports concussion safety law and helmet laws for children. Another resource is the CDC Heads Up web page.
Motor Vehicle Crashes
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of concussions and traumatic brain injury. The violent force of a collision can cause many injuries, from whip-lash to broken bones and head injuries. One can suffer a concussion in crashes at any speed and unlike other types of injuries, see no visible signs. One does not have to hit their head to sustain a concussion.
It can be hard to know whether you were injured after a car accident, so it is best to be proactive and call your primary care physician or visit a hospital emergency room.
When someone falls and hits the ground, they can suffer a concussion and it may be hard to recognize the signs, especially if the person is alone.
Older adults and younger children are more vulnerable to suffering falls. They are also at the highest risk for going without treatment. Consider how difficult it is for many adults to recognize they may have suffered a concussion; then think about young children, who may have limited speech. When it comes to young children, look for signs of discomfort, such as constant crying, trouble sleeping or the child may not eat. Contact your child’s pediatrician so they can advise you on the next step.
As for older adults, the CDC reports more than 34,000 adults age 65 and older died in falls in 2019. Many of these falls involved TBI and broken bones.
If you have an older relative or friend, talk to them about the importance of seeking medical care after any type of fall. Immediate treatment can help them identify whether they have sustained a concussion or other injuries. This puts their primary care physician in a good position to help them manage their recovery, with their full understanding of the person’s medical conditions and what medications they take.
Bicycle-Related Head Injuries
Make a plan for safety. Should you ever fall on your bike or be involved in a bicycle accident, commit to seek immediate medical care right away. Have a doctor evaluate whether you sustained a concussion.
Medical care is critical for cyclists. In addition to concussions, cyclists are vulnerable to suffering broken bones around the face, jaw and fractured teeth in crashes, along with other injuries. While you may try to treat your own pain, a medical exam is the best first step to determine the source of all your swelling and injuries.
As a cyclist, you can take an important step and protect against head injury by wearing a helmet. When cyclists wear helmets, the reality is they may still suffer injuries in a collision. But cyclists are more likely to survive a bike crash without the cognitive, physical or mental complications of a severe and traumatic brain injury. This is critically important because it improves one’s long-term chances for making a full recovery.
According to the CDC, helmets reduce the risk of head injury by absorbing much of the impact energy from a fall or a bicycle accident. Helmets protect the skull and brain from more severe injury.
After a Concussion, The Importance of Follow Up Medical Care
Another time to consider medical care is in the days, weeks and months following your initial treatment for a concussion. It is important that you fully heal. If you suffer a second concussion while you are still recovering, you are at risk for second impact syndrome and long-term complications.
The CDC reports many concussions are not fatal. Many people recover from concussions within a few weeks, with rest, plenty of sleep and patience.
But some injuries take more time. The National Institute of Health reports one study found nearly a quarter of patients struggle with physical and mental problems related to a concussion a full year later. Another study tracked 831 patients at 11 major trauma centers across the country and found not every patient receives follow-up care.
- Within three months of their injury, fewer than half of the patients – 44 percent – had followed up with a health care professional.
- Notably, when patients visited medical centers with dedicated TBI clinics, they were more likely to receive follow-up care.
- Patients who had more serious injuries (those who had CT Scans that showed tissue damage) had a higher rate for follow-up care, but even then only 61 percent sought follow-up care.
There are many reasons patients may not follow up after a concussion. This study noted just 42 percent of patients received educational materials as they left treatment; just 27 percent received a follow-up call from the hospital.
Make it your priority to follow up with your primary care doctor for as long as it takes.
Follow your doctor’s instructions for every phase of your recovery: when you are ready to drive and go back to work. Follow any limits your doctor sets, such as restricting cell phone use.
Take the family member along to your doctor’s appointments. This gives your loved one a chance to learn about the symptoms of a concussion and how you should progress.
Ask a loved one to play an active role in your treatment and help you observe your recovery. You may need help tracking activities at times, such as how many hours you sleep or how many times you contact your doctor with concerns. Write down any medical instructions you receive, or print messages from your online medical records, so you and your loved one can review them together over the next few months.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston TBI Attorneys
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston personal injury lawyers have over 100 years combined experience representing those who have been seriously injured or killed by the negligence or wrongdoing of others.
Our lawyers have extensive experience representing clients who have suffered concussions and traumatic brain injuries as a result of someone else’s negligence, helping them recover compensation for their medical expenses, loss of future income and other damages.
Our attorneys represent clients in Boston, Cambridge, Arlington, Somerville, Everett, Quincy, Milton and across Massachusetts. If you have been injured, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, call 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
Back-to-school is a fun and exciting time for students, especially getting to reconnect with friends after summer vacation. As students get ready, drivers should too. You should expect to see more students walking, biking or waiting at school bus stops. Commit to drive safely and be mindful of speed limits.
Take a Test Drive
Before students return, drive through your community, school parking lots and nearby intersections. Observe whether there has been roadwork or if new bike lanes have been added. Look for new traffic signs related to parking, school drop-offs and traffic direction. Look for sidewalks. As a driver, you have to make quick decisions and this check will help you later.
Look Right, Left, Front, Back
Drivers can prevent many traffic accidents by checking their blindspots and all sides of their vehicles at intersections more. At red lights and stop signs, it is critical that you check, especially from behind. You must watch for pedestrians, but also cyclists. Consider that after you initially stop your car, a cyclist could approach from behind. If you neglect to check, you may not see them before the encounter turns into a very serious bicycle accident.
When you park, commit to look. Check all sides, including your blindspot. Use your back-up cameras and really look for pedestrians, whether you are in a school parking lot or at a local restaurant or other business. Before you step out of your vehicle, check again so you do not hit a cyclist or pedestrian with your door. These accidents can happy very suddenly if you do neglect to look and a cyclist is nearby. Learn more about dooring accidents.
Slow Down for Students
In Massachusetts, drivers must follow a 20 mph speed limit in school zones. The Vision Zero campaign has documented that slower is safer for pedestrians, even just 5 mph.
From the City of Boston’s Vision Zero campaign:
- There is a 17 percent likelihood of fatality or severe injury when drivers travel 20 mph and hit a pedestrian.
- At 25 mph, the risk of pedestrian death or severe injury rises to 30 percent.
- At 30 mph – still not that fast – there was a 47 percent chance of a pedestrian accident turning fatal.
Travel Safely Behind School Buses
After the past year, it is more important than ever to practice patience near school buses and school bus stops. Each day may be different as parents, children and school bus drivers try to manage under COVID-19 conditions. Remember the basics of school bus safety.
When a bus flashes its yellow signals, this means the driver is getting ready to stop. Other drivers on the road should slow down and prepare to stop. Drivers must stop when the school bus activates its red lights and extends its stop sign.
Never pass a school bus that has activated its signals and extended its stop sign. In Massachusetts, drivers must keep vehicles at least 100 feet behind a school bus at all times. M.G.L. c. 90, § 14
When a school bus stops, drivers traveling in both directions must stop. And if you end up stopping behind a school bus that is letting off children, just wait. Wait until all the children have fully stepped onto the sidewalk and give the bus distance when it starts moving again. This also gives you time to assess the traffic and look for an opportunity to get off the bus route if you want to.
Stop and Look for Pedestrians at Crosswalks and Intersections
Drivers should commit to stop for students in crosswalks. Students expect drivers to stop and if drivers travel slowly and are prepared to stop, they have extra time to make safe decisions near children.
In Massachusetts, drivers have a responsibility to yield, slow down or stop for all pedestrians in marked crosswalks. Drivers must stop for pedestrians at crosswalks with an activated “Walk” signal. Another point is that you should follow other drivers and their decisions near crosswalks. When the car in front of you stops for a pedestrian at a marked crosswalk, you have a duty to stop and wait for the pedestrian to cross.
Read more on Breakstone, White & Gluck’s page on pedestrian crosswalk laws.
Teens Suffer Many Pedestrian Injuries
When you hear “back-to-school safety,” many people think of young elementary school students. But in “Alarming Dangers in School Zones, 2016,” SafeKids Worldwide reports that older teens, ages 15-19, account for 26 percent of all children age 19 and younger. Yet the older teens accounted for about half of all pedestrian fatalities, with many occurring at night.
This is relevant because when school begins, there will be a rise in traffic and pedestrian activity even outside school hours. High school students may be participating in afterschool sports, extracurricular activities, an afterschool job or visiting more with friends.
Call 911 to Report Injuries to Children, Pedestrians and Cyclists
If you pass a student or an older pedestrian or cyclist who has been injured, stop and call 911. This is a really difficult time as the pandemic continues and there is likely to be traffic congestion at times and demands on our emergency response services.
Never assume a pedestrian has help. Nearly 20 percent of all pedestrian fatalities involve hit-and-run crashes, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. If a driver flees the scene, the victim may not have anyone to call 911, delaying their access to medical care. Every minute counts to a pedestrian injured in a car accident.
About Breakstone, White & Gluck – Boston Pedestrian Accident Lawyers
With more than 100 years combined experience, Breakstone, White & Gluck fights for justice for clients who have been seriously injured by negligence or wrongdoing. Our lawyers are committed to excellence in every personal injury case we handle. We have earned consistent recognition in The Best Lawyers in America and Massachusetts Super Lawyers for our results for clients.
If you have been injured, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact us at 800-379-1244 or use our contact form.
While drivers have a duty to operate with reasonable care and follow traffic laws, it is also worth noting the road you are traveling on. In Massachusetts, certain intersections have a track record of more car accidents than others.
Which intersections? In its most recent report, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) shared the top 200 crash locations across the state. Released in September 2020, MassDOT’s 2017 Top Crash Locations Report offers insights as drivers plan their summer travel and resume commuting.
The rankings are based on reports to the Registry of Motor Vehicles’ Crash Data System from 2015-2017. A weighted methodology was used to compile the list.
Here are the top 10 car crash locations in Massachusetts:
- VFW Highway at Bridge Street, Lowell
- Randolph Avenue at Chickatwabut Road, Milton
- Morton Street at Harvard Street, Boston
- Ash Street and West Elm Street, Brockton
- Appleton Street at Central Street, Lowell
- Pleasant Street at Lincoln Street, Stoughton
- Main Street at Plainfield Street, Springfield
- High Street at Cabot Street, Holyoke
- Broadway at Third Street, Chelsea
- Saint James Avenue at Saint James Boulevard, Springfield
Several communities had multiple intersections on the list. Lowell has four of the top 25.
Top Crash Locations in Lowell
Two of the highest-ranked intersections were on the VFW Highway along the Merrimack River in Lowell. The VFW Highway at Bridge Street was named the top crash location statewide. The VFW Highway and Mammath Road ranked 22nd.
Also in Lowell, Appleton Street at Central Street and School Street at Branch Street appeared among the top 25 motor vehicle crash areas.
Brockton Top Crash Locations
MassDOT listed 31 Brockton intersections among the top 200 crash locations. The five top crash locations in Brockton:
4) Ash Street and West Elm Street, Brockton
15) Court Street at Montello Street, Brockton
23) Forest Avenue at Bouve Avenue, Brockton
24) Main Street at Nilsson Street, Brockton
25) Warren Avenue at Father Kenney Way, Brockton
One of the top crash locations was the area of North Quincy and Chestnut Streets on the Abington and Brockton border. Nearby, two Randolph intersections along Route 28 appeared on the list. At 41 was the intersection of South Main Street and Union Street. North Main Street and Scanlon Drive ranked 126 (this finished in the same position as six other intersections in Brockton, Lowell, Cambridge and two locations in Worcester).
Can You Change Your Commute to Avoid High Crash Locations?
Every driver wants to avoid a car crash. Apps such as Google Directions and Waze can offer valuable insights about traffic volumes. But we encourage you to look through the full MassDOT list of top crash locations.
If you travel through one of these intersections, consider why there are so many auto accidents. Some roads have high traffic volumes, especially during commuting hours. With more drivers, you may see more unsafe maneuvers, such as talking on a cell phone, speeding or failure to yield. Other roads have become large truck routes or are just aging, with outdated traffic infrastructure or poor lighting.
If you can, try to avoid these intersections or adjust your commute to avoid peak traffic. If you must travel these areas, pay attention and consider safety, near other vehicles as well as other pedestrians and cyclists. And watch for change. If you search online, you may find some of these intersections are scheduled for re-construction in the near future.
Free Legal Consultation – Contact Our Boston Car Accident Lawyers
Breakstone, White & Gluck offers our clients more than 100 years combined experience in handling car accidents, truck crashes and other motor vehicle collisions. Clients turn to us for our experience, expertise and our commitment to achieving the best result in every case. Read about our past results for clients in personal injury cases.
If you have been injured by another driver, learn your legal rights for seeking compensation. For a free legal consultation, contact our car accident attorneys at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
No one ever wants to hear the phrase “wrong-way crash.” But head-on collisions are frequent and often fatal on Massachusetts highways.
A new traffic analysis reveals the number of wrong-way crashes is rising on divided highways across the U.S. The majority of these auto crashes involve an alcohol-impaired operator. Drivers are exceeding the legal limit in 6 of 10 wrong-way car crashes, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Drunk driving is the leading cause. Yet researchers say other factors, including a driver’s age and driving without a passenger, contribute. For example, 87 percent of wrong-way drivers travel alone. Passengers can be a resource for drivers, giving them an extra set of eyes to catch potential mistakes.
As for older drivers, those between 75 and 79 drive fewer miles and spend less time driving than younger operators. Still, they are more likely to be involved in a wrong-way crash and states are being urged to review how they identify medically at-risk drivers.
How Many Wrong-Way Crashes Are There in Massachusetts Each Year?
In Massachusetts, MassDOT data shows 150 people have died and more than 4,500 have been injured in wrong-way car accidents since 2010, according to CBSBoston.com. Since 2010, there have been 8,200 wrong-way crashes.
Nationwide, wrong-way accidents caused an average of approximately 500 deaths per year from 2015 – 2018, according to AAA. This represents a 34 percent increase from 2010 – 2014.
According to the CBSBoston.com report, the numbers also climbed in Massachusetts, from 19 to 27 deaths on average annually for the same period, a 78 percent increase.
Worcester recorded 366 wrong-way crashes, more than any other community in Massachusetts, followed by Springfield and Boston.
Wrong-Way Crashes Can Also Happen at Local Intersections
The AAA report focuses on wrong-way crashes on divided highways. Drivers can also make dangerous maneuvers resulting in wrong-way accidents at local intersections. From 2015-2018, the Federal Highway Administration reported roughly 400-450 wrong-way crashes at intersections.
Crashes may not be reported the same way at intersections, which have different traffic conditions, speeds and signage. When there is a wrong-way crash, the driver may be cited for another infraction, such as a marked lanes violation or failure to stop for a traffic signal.
But if you have been seriously injured at an intersection with a “Do Not Enter-Wrong Way” sign, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced car accident attorney who can thoroughly investigate the cause of a collision and your injury. An attorney can help you secure evidence promptly and with every aspect of your claim should you need to seek compensation from an at-fault driver’s insurance policy.
Strengthening Traffic Laws to Reduce Wrong-Way Crashes
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the National Transportation Safety Board are working to educate drivers about taking safety precautions to avoid wrong-way crashes and head-on traffic crashes. The most fundamental step is not to drink and drive.
The organizations also support passage of safety laws and infrastructure improvements, including more visible traffic signs.
Ignition-interlock laws are part of this effort and all eyes are on Massachusetts. We are the only state which does not require drivers with a first-time OUI conviction to utilize ignition interlocks, which test one’s blood alcohol concentration before they start driving.
However, after years of unsuccessful debate, Massachusetts may finally be moving closer. Last December, Gov. Charlie Baker signed an amendment to the state budget which if passed, will make ignition interlocks mandatory for all drivers convicted of operating under the influence. This could make a meaningful difference in discouraging choices that lead to drunk driving crashes and very serious injuries across Massachusetts.
Tips for Driving Safely on Highways
Do Not Drink and Drive. Never consume alcohol – or marijuana or other drugs – then drive. Use the designated driver system if you plan to go out and consume alcohol. Drivers have the same responsibility when using prescription medications which carry safety warnings about driving. If you have a question, consult your doctor on when and how you should use your medication.
Stay Alert. Do not drive if you are drowsy or fatigued. If you find yourself too tired to drive, stop your vehicle and come up with a short-term plan for getting some rest or grabbing a cup of coffee. There is always an alternative, including Uber or Lyft. Drivers often want just to push through and reach their destination. But if your vision is blurry or you cannot focus, you are driving negligently and putting others in harm’s way.
Drive with a Friend. You can split up the driving responsibilities, which will reduce your fatigue.
Avoid Distracted Driving. Reaching for a cell phone is the cause of many auto accidents. You are not using reasonable care to drive safely if you attempt to make a phone call while traveling through highway traffic, among other cars, SUVs and large trucks.
While Massachusetts has a hands-free driving law and drivers are legally allowed to make phone calls with Bluetooth devices, the safest approach is to still look for a rest stop or exit and safely park your vehicle before using your phone.
Create a Family Support System. Families can support each other in getting home safely. Try to develop a network of friends and loved ones who will support you. Ask them in advance if they would be willing to come pick you up if you ever needed a ride. Be willing to do the same for them.
Help Older Drivers Plan. Be proactive. Take time to discuss transportation options with the older driver in your life. If they drive, help them plan the best times of day to travel and steer them away from the highway. Remind them the importance of having a regular eye exam.
Let them know they have support. Make a schedule for your loved one to get out several times a week with you, other family members, grandchildren or a Council on Aging.
Free Legal Consultation – Call Our Boston Auto Accident Lawyers
With more than 100 years combined experience, Breakstone, White & Gluck specializes in representing those who have suffered serious personal injury or wrongful death due to negligence. We are based at 2 Central Plaza in downtown Boston.
With expertise in Massachusetts insurance laws and traffic accident investigations, our attorneys are here to guide clients through the difficulties you face after a serious accident. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck and our car accident lawyers at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
It has been nearly a year since Massachusetts called the COVID-19 state of emergency. Your daily routine has completely changed and you are not driving very often. Do you still need to buy auto insurance at this point?
Yes. Under state law, you are required to purchase a Massachusetts auto insurance policy if you have a driver’s license and register a vehicle. If you cause a car accident in Massachusetts, you are responsible for compensating anyone you have injured for their medical expenses and other financial losses. You also have to pay for property damage.
Auto insurers granted Massachusetts drivers some discounts last year, but lawmakers and consumer advocates are starting to raise the question of further discounts.
Calls for Action on Reducing Auto Insurance Premiums in Massachusetts
On Feb. 12th, the Lawrence-Eagle Tribune reported state Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, and other legislators have asked the state Division of Insurance to review insurance rates, premiums and losses. They also want insurers to offer refunds from profits.
Attorney General Maura Healey’s office also recently asked regulators to reduce personal automobile insurance premiums by at least 25 percent, according to the newspaper. Her office cited data showing the frequency of liability coverage claims fell more than 50 percent between 2019 and 2020. There was a 70 percent drop in the frequency of collision coverage claims.
Our Massachusetts Auto Insurance Tips During COVID-19
Purchase the Minimum Auto Insurance
Under Massachusetts law, you have to purchase the required minimum coverage limits. There has been no change to the coverage limits during COVID-19.
- Bodily Injury to Others, $20,000 per person; $40,000 per accident
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP), $8,000 per person, per accident
- Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Auto, $20,000 per person; $40,000 per accident
- Damage to Someone Else’s Property, $5,000 per accident
These are low coverage limits. In most cases, drivers should purchase more to adequately protect themselves and others if they cause a car accident. The key with auto insurance is you must purchase the right amounts and coverage types to protect yourself. Learn more about the different coverages in our article, “Understanding and Buying Massachusetts Car Accident Insurance.”
How Auto Insurance Protects You
Right now, you may be asking why you need to buy an auto insurance policy at all. This is a good time to remind you of all the ways your policy can work for you. Most drivers can appreciate that they are required to purchase auto insurance under Massachusetts law. At the very least, under M.G.L. c. 90, § 34J, you may face a fine between $500 to $5,000 if you are caught operating without insurance. Most drivers can also appreciate that auto insurance can protect them financially if they make a mistake and cause someone injury in a car crash.
But there are other protections. First, you may need your auto insurance to protect yourself. Even if another driver was at fault in a car crash, you may have to file a claim with your own policy for your medical expenses and lost wages. This would be true if you were injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver. This would also be the case if you were injured in a hit-and-run accident and could not identify the driver.
If you are a cyclist, you may be entitled to pursue a claim against another driver for your injuries in a bicycle accident. However, having your own auto insurance policy can provide necessary resources to help you recover, especially if the driver does not have auto insurance.
Another benefit is auto insurance can protect our loved ones or those living in our household. Call your insurance agent and ask to add these licensed drivers to your policy. They may be able to draw on the coverage should they ever be injured in a car crash or a bicycle accident and not have coverage elsewhere.
Keep Massachusetts Auto Insurance Payments Current
It is fine to evaluate your auto insurance. But do not withhold or miss an auto insurance premium payment or you could risk your insurer cancelling your policy. If you are facing financial hardship, one option is you can set up a payment plan over the year. In doing so, you may be losing a pre-payment discount, but it may be the best approach for your situation right now.
Before you call your insurer or insurance agent, learn as much as you can. Read the state advisory on Motor Vehicle Insurance Installment Payment Plans.
Seek Quotes from Massachusetts Insurance Agents
In Massachusetts, you can purchase insurance directly through an insurer or an insurance agent. Call and ask if you qualify for any discounts based on your current driving routine, vehicle, employer or group memberships. At a minimum, insurers should offer a discount for traveling more than 5,000 miles in a year.
It is usually worth requesting quotes from more than one insurance agent or companies. In Massachusetts, some insurance agents can offer quotes from multiple companies. Expect most to represent just a single company. Here is the state of Massachusetts insurance agent database.
Check for Discounts and Savings
The best types of discounts and savings are those you achieve just by checking in with your auto insurance agent. For instance, you may be eligible for a discount because you logged fewer than 5,000 miles on your car in 2020.
In some cases, this conversation may not result in savings. You may need to add someone to your household policy or purchase business coverage because you started using your vehicle for work. Whatever your situation, you have a responsibility to keep your auto insurer updated so you have proper coverage should you need it. Many people put their auto insurance coverage at risk without even realizing it when they move and start garaging their vehicle in a new location. Your auto insurance is calculated in part based on where you garage your vehicle. College students who take their vehicles to campus also need to update auto insurers.
Where to Learn More About Massachusetts Auto Insurance
We mentioned a few of our auto insurance articles in this blog. We also invite you to read our other auto insurance articles, including “What Every Massachusetts Bicyclist Needs to Know About Car Insurance” and “Massachusetts Motorcyclists: Buy the Right Types of Auto Insurance to Protect Yourself and Your Finances.”
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Car Accident Attorney
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston car accident lawyers are known for our commitment to pursuing the best financial result for clients. If you have been injured by someone else’s negligent driving, you may be entitled to seek compensation for your injuries. We represent clients throughout Massachusetts, including in Boston, Quincy, Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Brookline and Arlington.
For a free legal consultation, contact our attorneys at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
When the snow starts to fall, get ready for winter travel conditions. While many Massachusetts residents are working remotely, most of us are still driving in some capacity and it is critical to prepare. You want to travel safely, slowly and defensively so no one is injured.
If you fail to exercise reasonable care during snow and ice conditions, you are more likely to slip, slide or crash on the road. You could cause yourself injury and need a new vehicle. But even more critical, you could cause someone else serious injury in a car accident. You could be held financially liable and have to pay a claim through your Massachusetts automobile insurance policy.
Stock your car up with emergency supplies. Include jumper cables, a snow shovel and scraper, a flashlight, extra windshield wiper fluid, antifreeze and a basic tool kit, with a screwdriver and other essentials. Also pack a warm blanket, bottled water and a snack, as well as a bright colored flag to wave should you need help. Another tip from the state of Massachusetts: have sand, road salt, a strip of carpet or kitty litter for traction should you need it.
Check your vehicle’s systems. Keep up with routine maintenance during the pandemic, even if you are not driving as often. On your own, you can inspect your tires, headlights and taillights to make sure they are working. You can also check your wiper blades and windshield washer fluid, heat and defrost.
Check weather alerts and traffic updates. Check both weather and traffic conditions before leaving home. Check weather conditions hour-by-hour so you are prepared.
Stay home. Avoid traveling during heavy snow conditions. If you must travel, use public transportation or delay your commute if possible.
Most New England residents do not re-arrange their travel plans for rain. Schools have “snow days” but not “rain days.” But be aware that any type of precipitation impacts visibility and safety on the road. One recent study looked at more than 125,000 fatal motor vehicle crashes between 2006 and 2011 and put a number on the risk for car accidents.
According to the study, published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, the risk rises based on the intensity of the precipitation. Light precipitation may increase the potential hazard by 27 percent. The risk more than doubles during heavier precipitation.
One of the researchers told the Washington Post that many drivers do not appreciate how the risk for crashes increases during even light rain.
Clear snow off your car. Plan an extra few minutes to remove snow from your vehicle’s roof, windshield and windows. You should be able to see in all directions from the driver’s seat.
In Massachusetts, police can cite drivers who neglect to clear snow because this interferes with safe travel. Drivers can receive a civil citation and have to pay a fine. However, the greater risk is that someone could be seriously injured by flyaway snow and ice or that the snow and ice could block someone’s view.
Drivers can prevent these accidents by simply doing a little more work before they drive. As a driver, you should know if you neglect to clear snow and ice and cause someone injury, you could be held financially responsible for the victim’s injuries and other damages. In Massachusetts, you could also be criminally charged with reckless or negligent operation of a motor vehicle. If you have been injured by a driver who neglected to remove snow and ice from their vehicle, you should report this fact to police investigating the car crash. You may also want to consult a Boston personal injury lawyer to learn your legal rights.
Slow down. Travel below the speed limit, even if others are traveling at the normal speed or speeding. Lowering your speed gives you more control over your vehicle. Remember, traffic is less predictable during snow storms and the road ahead may not be fully plowed. With less visibility, you may will need to watch more closely for pedestrians.
Charge cell phones. Keep your phone charged so you can use it during an emergency, but don’t use it. It is best to wait until you get home to talk, even if you are using an in-vehicle system or Bluetooth as allowed under the Massachusetts hands-free law. You can still cause a car accident if you are distracted and using a cell phone, even if you are following the law. You can still be held liable if you cause someone injury because you were not paying attention.
Travel safely near plow trucks. The state of Massachusetts advises drivers to stay at least 200 feet back when approaching a snow plow truck or other snow removal equipment. Do not attempt to pass a snow plow at any time. Drivers should be prepared for snow plows to make sudden stops at any time. Staying back gives you more time to slow down or stop, reducing the chance of a snow plow crash.
Snow plow drivers are likely to have poor visibility and you do not know how long they have been working without a break. What you can do is turn your vehicle lights on and wipe these clean from snow regularly. By taking these steps and giving snow plow drivers space, you are less likely to be involved in a collision with a snow plow or other vehicles also trying to dodge the snow plow.
Snow plows need as much room as possible in part because they must also watch for pedestrians.
Less than a week ago, there was a tragic accident in Lowell. The two pedestrians, one of whom was in a wheelchair, were struck at the corner of School and Cross streets. The 27-year-old woman in the wheelchair later died, according to NBC Boston. She was with a 39-year-old man and both were wearing safety jackets with reflectors, one witness at the scene told the news station. The accident was under investigation by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office.
Because of the risk for plow truck accidents, we also caution drivers to avoid these vehicles in parking lots. Pedestrians have been hit, injured and killed by plow drivers in Massachusetts parking lots.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Car Accident Attorneys
Breakstone, White & Gluck has a track record of successfully representing those injured by negligent drivers in car accidents, SUV crashes and truck collisions. We are experienced in investigating snow plow accidents which have injured pedestrians and other motorists, as well as other vehicle crashes in snow conditions.
Founded in 1992, Breakstone, White & Gluck represents clients across Massachusetts, including Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Quincy, Milton, Lynn and Saugus.
If you have been injured in a car crash, it is in your best interest to learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
It is a fact: pedestrians age 65 and older face an increased risk for being injured by a car accident or truck crash. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pedestrians of this age accounted for 1 in 5 pedestrian deaths in the U.S. They also suffered 1 in 10 percent of all injuries.
November, December and January are among the darkest months of the year in Massachusetts. At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our lawyers caution all pedestrians take steps to protect themselves. Start before you leave home. One of the most effective steps you can take is to wear a neon colored vest, jacket or other accessories so drivers can see you.
Safety Tips for Older Pedestrians
Arrange for a Ride. During the winter months, ask a friend or family member to give you a ride to the store and help you with other errands. If you do not have someone, call your local town or city hall to speak to their Council on Aging, which may be able to help arrange you a ride. You can go back to walking in the Spring when there is better visibility.
Use Crosswalks. In Massachusetts, pedestrians have the right of way when walking across the street in a crosswalk which has a “Walk” signal or green light.
Do Not Cross the Street Alone. Look for areas where there is a crossing guard if you can. Also look for areas where there are other pedestrians crossing. Do an honest evaluation; if you are walking much slower than other pedestrians, you should only cross when there is a crossing guard or accept a ride.
Avoid Complicated Intersections. Rather than walking through complex intersections, either accept a ride or change your route for the winter months. Also stay clear of wide intersections or roads with traffic passing in both directions.
Be Mindful of Traffic Conditions. If you walk, do so during daylight hours and when traffic is lightest. This is not just advice for crossing the street. Keep this in mind when you are walking through parking lots, where there is a high risk for pedestrian accidents at night.
Find Another Way to Walk For Exercise. Many of us – young and older – like to incorporate some walking for exercise into our daily routines of work and errands. If you miss walking, find a way to walk off the street. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, it is not safe to work out at a health club or gym. You may have to explore other options for exercise this year, such as hiking or even just walking on a lawn. Again, we encourage you to ask friends, family members and others in your community for suggestions.
Safety Reminders for Drivers
Use Reasonable Care and Travel Slowly. Massachusetts drivers have a responsibility to use reasonable care when driving. During the winter months, this means watching for pedestrians at all times, including when you get in your car and when you park. This is the time to utilize your vehicle’s back-up camera. Also watch when you exit your vehicle so you avoid dooring a pedestrian or a cyclist.
Travel Slowly. You cannot control all traffic conditions. But you can control your speed. By traveling slowly, even under the speed limit in residential neighborhoods, you have a greater ability to stop for pedestrians and avoid a pedestrian crash. This is important because older pedestrians are likely to take more time to cross the street. Many pedestrian car crashes occur because a driver misjudged the pedestrian’s speed.
Approach Familiar Places With Caution, Too. Take care even when driving near familiar places, such as a friend’s home, the pizza place down the street or a nearby grocery store. At night, there is a different traffic pace. During the pandemic, the pedestrian and vehicle traffic is changing weekly. There is a greater chance of car accidents in these conditions.
Be Aware of Eye Strain. If prescribed, drivers should wear their glasses at night. The rest of us should also be aware of the risks of eye strain and drowsiness at night. When possible, keep night driving trips short to keep your eyes strong.
Do Not Use Cell Phones. Months after the Massachusetts Hands-Free Driving Law took effect, drivers should know there is no tolerance for picking up a cell phone. The act of dialing a number and cradling a phone takes a driver’s attention off the road for at least several seconds. Drivers have caused many pedestrian crashes through cell phone use. On the same note, pedestrians should set aside cell phones while walking at night near traffic and minimize distractions.
Free Legal Consultation – Breakstone, White & Gluck
Breakstone, White & Gluck has represented pedestrians injured by negligent driving in car accidents, bus crashes and truck collisions across Massachusetts, including in Boston, Cambridge, Quincy, Somerville, Chelsea and Everett.
If you have been injured by the negligence or wrongdoing of someone else, learn your legal rights. Breakstone, White & Gluck is an accomplished Boston law firm known consistently recognized for our results for clients, including by Top 100 New England Super Lawyers, Top 100 Massachusetts Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America.
In Boston, we are known for our experience and expertise in representing pedestrians who have been injured in MBTA bus accidents. We won a landmark personal injury case, resulting in a $7.1 million verdict for our client, after trial and appeals to the state’s highest court. Our client had the horrific experience of being struck by a MBTA bus in a South Boston crosswalk. The driver had admitted fault, and the MBTA police investigation confirmed the finding. But the MBTA refused to even make an offer of settlement and our attorneys pursued an award at trial.
For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.
Teen Driver Safety Week is Oct. 18-24, 2020. Breakstone, White & Gluck is sharing articles to encourage parents and teens to collaborate and discuss safe driving decisions.
As every parent well knows, it is not easy to talk to your teen about safe driving decisions. You may talk, while your teen just looks at your car keys. Despite the challenges, we encourage you to be patient and stay the course in these conversations, especially when it comes to discouraging drinking and driving.
Talk to your teen about their responsibilities. In Massachusetts, teens who are between 16 ½ and 18 are eligible for a junior operator’s license. Teens face special restrictions, such as they cannot carry friends who are under 18 without supervision for the first six months of driving. They are also banned from driving between midnight and 5 a.m. Like all drivers, junior operators are not allowed to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs under any circumstances. They can face criminal penalties for operating to endanger/recklessly or while negligent. But the greatest danger is teens who operate while impaired are more likely to cause a drunk driving accident due to their impairment and poor choice.
We are writing about this because teens are more likely to avoid drinking and driving when they make the decision in advance, with a parent’s support, not to drink until they are 21.
Teach teens to respect the legal drinking age. In Massachusetts, you must be at least 21 years old to legally consume alcohol. Make sure your teen knows you expect them not to drink until they reach the legal age. Let them know they can talk to you or another family member if they face pressure to drink or someone offers them alcohol.
Be honest about why you want your teen to avoid alcohol. Explain that you want them to live the best life they can. As a teen, they are still developing physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally. As this happens, teens are still developing their values and their compass for making good decisions.
Consider this: those age 12 to 20 consume 11 percent of all alcohol in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Because of their inexperience, teens are more likely to consume more drinks than an adult drinker.
Risk for injuries when teens drink and drive. Teens are more likely to be killed in an alcohol-related crash than anyone else on the roads, according to the CDC. In 2016, 1 out of 5 teens involved in fatal car crashes had been drinking.
Teens can put themselves at risk when they drive drunk, but another danger is when they travel with friends who have consumed alcohol. According to the 2017 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 16.5 percent of high school students had traveled with a driver who had consumed alcohol in the previous month. This is a revealing number, but it gets worse.
Unfortunately, drinking and driving just paves the way for other poor decisions. According to the CDC, nearly 60 percent of the drivers age 15-20 who were killed in car crashes after drinking and driving weren’t wearing seat belts. Nearly a third of all male drivers in this age group were speeding when they crashed and 20 percent had been drinking and driving.
A teen who consumes alcohol, then causes a car accident resulting in injury may face criminal consequences. Parents can also be held liable for personal injuries if the victim pursues a claim against your car insurance policy or a civil lawsuit. For a teen, the experience of injuring another person is hard to recover from. It’s incredibly more painful when they were being reckless, such as operating under the influence of alcohol.
What you can offer your teen is support and guidance. Look for a teen-parent driving contract online for help. Review the agreement with your teen and make sure they know that you will always come pick them up if they need a ride. Also let them know that driving mistakes and accidents do happen. But you can’t support unsafe choices like drinking and driving, which endangers them and others on the road.
Other negative effects of teen drinking. The consequences of underage drinking are very real, even beyond driving. Teens who engage in underage drinking are more likely to suffer from social problems, such as high absentee rates and failing grades, face legal problems such as arrest and experience physical fatigue and hangovers, according to the CDC. They are also more likely to become the victim of a physical or sexual assault. There can also be a long term impact on their physical development.
Tell your child what every adult knows: delaying that first drink can make life’s hard experiences a little more manageable. Make sure they know you are proud of them and that they should feel good about their decision.
Never provide alcohol to your teens. On the same note, it is illegal to provide alcohol to your teen and their friends. If you allow your teen or others to drink in your home and someone is injured as a result, you could face criminal arrest and even jail time under Massachusetts social host liability laws. There are many stories of parents who have allowed this or even supplied the alcohol. Sometimes, parents have thought it is better to keep teens close if they are going to drink. But this is a dangerous thought and you could end up financially responsible for a very painful situation.
Likewise, make sure you know where your teen is going and with whom. It doesn’t help your teen to spend time at a friend’s home where alcohol is readily available or where their parents or older siblings are frequently drinking in the home.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Car Accident Attorneys
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our lawyers provide aggressive and thorough representation to those injured by the negligence of other drivers across Massachusetts. If you have been injured, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact our Boston car accident lawyers at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
To learn more about our Project KidSafe campaign and our National Teen Driving Safety Week articles, visit www.bwglaw.com/project-kidsafe.
Teen Driver Safety Week is Oct. 18-24, 2020. Breakstone, White & Gluck is sharing articles to encourage parents and teens to collaborate and discuss safe driving decisions.
In Massachusetts, drivers who are at least 16 ½ are eligible to receive their driver’s license after a six-month permit period. Because Massachusetts has a Junior Operator Law, teens do not immediately assume full driving privileges. There are restrictions to help reduce the risk of teen car accidents, including one on passengers.
For the first six months, Massachusetts junior operators are not allowed to travel with friends and others under age 18, unless accompanied by another driver who is at least 21 years old and meets other requirements mentioned in statute below. There is an exemption for siblings and family members. The passenger restriction is a critical part of the law, giving teens more time to learn road skills without the distraction of friends.
M.G.L. c.90 § 8 states, “No person holding a junior operator’s license shall operate a motor vehicle during the first 6 months of licensure while a person under 18 years of age, other than the operator or an immediate family member of the operator, is present in the vehicle unless also accompanied by another person, duly licensed by his state of residence, who is at least 21 years of age with at least 1 year of driving experience and who is occupying a seat beside the driver.”
The passenger restriction should be taken seriously. As we discuss below, the distractions of carrying other teens combined with driver inexperience, can contribute to the risk for car accidents resulting in catastrophic injuries such as brain injuries and paralysis, and death. Car crashes are the leading cause of death among teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The junior operator law attempts to give teens more time for practice.
If stopped for carrying unlawful passengers, teens can lose their license for 60 days for the first offense. For the second offense, drivers face a 180-day license suspension and must attend driver attitudinal retraining. There is a one-year license suspension and driver attitudinal retraining for subsequent offenses.
More Passengers, More Risk for Crashes
Research has shown teens need the extra time driving without their friends.
Compared to no passengers, a 16- or 17-year-old’s risk for death per mile increases 44 percent when they carry just one passenger under the age of 21, according to the AAA Foundation for Road Safety. The risk doubles when a teen driver carries two passengers younger than 21. The death rate quadruples when there are three or more passengers.
The older the passenger, the less risk for a car accident. There is a 62 percent decrease for a crash when a passenger age 35 or older is aboard. Take this statistic as motivation to give your teens the keys as you ride along. If you develop a good routine with them, you can help them build a full range of driving skills.
As they become more skilled, reward them by letting them drive to new places – a special lunch spot or a scenic view. This helps them build skills, learn responsibility and find some enjoyment from driving. With more time, they can practice fundamentals, such as how to turn through that intersection near your home, how to check for cyclists and how to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. When teens drive with their friends, they are less likely to give these things their full attention.
Come Up With a Driving Plan for Your Teen
The takeaway is come up with a plan for your family. If your teen just earned their Massachusetts junior operator license, the state says they are not allowed to drive with friends under 18 for the first few months but that they can drive with their siblings right away. Remember, the law is a guide. This is your choice to make based on what your teen and their siblings are ready for. Your goal is to help your teen steer clear of car accidents. Think about each situation before you say yes.
When your teen is allowed to start driving passengers under 18, take another pause. The data still shows fewer passengers is safer.
You may want to start slow. Allow your teen to drive with just one friend. Choose a friend who is responsible, trustworthy and has a parent whom you know well and shares your views on raising safe and responsible teen drivers. That parent should also share your views on open communication. If something should happen and your teen should find themselves at risk, you want your teen and their friend to both feel they can call for a ride.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Car Accident Lawyers
Breakstone, White & Gluck has decades of experience representing by negligent driving in Boston, Cambridge, Quincy and across Massachusetts. Through our Project KidSafe campaign, we work to protect children and families. Each year, we write about National Teen Driver Safety Week to encourage parents and teens to talk about safety on the roads.
If you have been injured and want to consult a Boston car accident lawyer, you can visit our website or contact our attorneys at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 for a free legal consultation. You can also use our contact form.