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Proposed Massachusetts Legislation Could Make Roads Safer

Content reviewed by Jason D. Stone

If you’re planning on filing a personal injury claim relating to a car accident, you should be aware of a new bill filed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker this past April entitled “An Act Relative to Improving Safety on the Roads of the Commonwealth.” The bill, which has yet to pass, aims to reduce roadway fatalities and seeks to overhaul the state’s traffic laws significantly.

Massachusetts experienced almost the same number of roadway deaths in 2020 as in 2019 despite less traffic due to COVID-19. In response, the legislation proposed by Baker’s administration is far-reaching.

Governor Baker’s legislation proposes several changes to traffic laws in the state, including stricter seat belt enforcement and the introduction of red-light cameras.

Making the Massachusetts Seat Belt Law a Primary Law

Massachusetts requires car passengers to wear seat belts, fining violations of $25. However, the law is currently secondary, which means that police officers are not permitted to pull over drivers for this offense alone. Baker’s law would make the Massachusetts seat belt law a primary law requiring officers to pull over drivers specifically for not wearing a seat belt.

Massachusetts has one of the lowest seat belt usage rates in the United States, ranking 46th out of 50 states.

Introducing Red Light Cameras

The new legislation also recommends that Massachusetts communities be given the option to install red light cameras, with permission, at intersections and local state-owned roads.

Not to be confused with traffic cameras that catch speeding drivers, the red light cameras would photograph the license plate of any car running a red light or making an illegal turn at a red light. Local towns and cities will subsequently issue a fine to the registered vehicle owner if caught on camera while running the red light. The bill suggests a maximum fine of $25 be issued to these vehicle owners.

Increased Space for Pedestrians and Bicyclists

The legislation also includes provisions to protect those on foot or two wheels, which accounted for a quarter of all Massachusetts roadway fatalities between 2016 and 2020. The bill would require that drivers leave at least three feet of space when in the vicinity of a cyclist like in the majority of U.S. states and also requires reasonable speed when drivers pass pedestrians or cyclists.

The bill will also stipulate that all large, state-owned vehicles be equipped with crossover and convex mirrors and side guards to reduce pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities. It will also upgrade Massachusetts’s crash reporting requirements.

Bring Back E-Scooters

After numerous local officials rejected shared electric scooters after their debut in 2018, citing state law that makes them illegal on public roads, Baker is trying to resolve the issue by calling on the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to recommend a new law to guarantee the safe use of low-carbon electric scooters and bicycles.

This aspect of the legislation asks that MassDOT organizes an advisory committee to develop a new statutory framework, recommending the safe use of these low-carbon methods of transportation in the state.

Stricter License Penalties

Finally, the legislation includes stricter sentences for drivers who operate a vehicle despite losing their license.

The legislation would add the punishment of fines up to $1,000 and up to 5 years in prison for driving negligently and penalties of up to $3,000 and up to 2.5 years in jail for causing serious bodily injury. There would be fines of up to $5,000 and a mandatory 2 years with a maximum of 10 years in prison for causing death while driving on a suspended license.

Jason Stone Injury Lawyers Can Help

Both the proposed new legislation and its concerns will affect personal injury cases. If you’ve been involved in a car accident and are planning to file a personal injury claim, Massachusetts car accident lawyers at Jason Stone can advise you on how to proceed with claims filing. With the right attorneys by your side, you can get the compensation and justice that you’re entitled to.

Contact Boston car accident attorneys at Jason Stone Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation or to receive more information on pursuing damages for personal injuries.

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