A new Massachusetts law designed to reduce traffic deaths gives increased protection to “vulnerable users” sharing the road with motor vehicles. Signed in January, the legislation requires drivers to stay at least four feet away from bicyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, wheelchair users, horseback riders, and other vulnerable road users when passing them. It also requires motor vehicle operators to maintain a “reasonable and proper speed” while doing so.
The law makes additional safety changes, including mandating rear red lights for cyclists, requiring backup cameras and other protective features on large state vehicles, clarifying the process for municipalities to modify speed limits, and standardizing reporting on crashes involving vulnerable road users. The Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (MassBike) says the safety bill passed after 10 years of advocating for “An Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities.”
Massachusetts Traffic Accidents on the Rise
The new law comes at a time of increasing traffic deaths in the Commonwealth. According to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Crash Data Portal, 2022 saw 432 motor vehicle fatalities—up from 415 in 2021 and 343 in 2020. Last year’s numbers included 10 bicyclist deaths and 101 pedestrian deaths in crashes statewide.
Non-fatal injuries among vulnerable road users are also on the rise. Among bicyclists, 988 were injured in Massachusetts traffic crashes in 2022, up from 820 in 2021, and 773 in 2020. A similar pattern emerged among pedestrians, with 1,479 suffering non-fatal crash injuries in Massachusetts in 2022, up from 1,258 in 2021, and 1,108 in 2020.
MA Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts gathers data about safety on the road for non-motorists. The following points summarize information collected for the five-year period between 2017 and 2021.
- Pedestrian deaths occurred more frequently during the colder months. Contributing factors may include decreased daylight and compromised road and sidewalk conditions due to winter weather.
- Pedestrian deaths spiked in the evening hours, a time frame typically associated with rush hour as well as recreational activities like walking and running.
- Males represented nearly 90% of bicyclist deaths and 60% of pedestrian deaths.
- Most fatalities occurred in people 35 years of age or older, for both cyclists and pedestrians.
Boston Traffic Accident Lawyers
If you use a form of transportation that makes you vulnerable on the road—including walking, bicycles, scooters, skateboards, wheelchairs, roller skates, or even farm tractors—the new state law gives you additional safety protections. If you have been seriously hurt in a Massachusetts motor vehicle crash, you may qualify for financial compensation for your injuries. You may also be eligible to recover damages in the event that a family member suffered a fatal auto accident.
The professional attorneys at Altman & Altman LLP have been handling car crashes, bicycle accidents, and pedestrian injury cases in Massachusetts for over 50 years. Since we work on a contingency basis, we won’t charge anything unless we collect for you. The statute of limitations on these types of lawsuits is typically three years, so protect your rights by scheduling a free consultation with us today.