Despite years of public service announcements and increased awareness of the problem, pedestrian accidents in the Commonwealth have been on the rise over the past 10 years. While there are no definitive reasons for the increase, we can surmise that many of the accidents are the result of distracted motorists, poorly lit or designed intersections, and some fault by pedestrians who are imprudent when crossing the street.
Distracted driving and the tragic accidents that it causes have been on the public radar for some time now. The phrase is a catch-all for any behavior that takes the driver’s focus off of driving for any amount of time. This can include activities such as eating, rubber-necking, day-dreaming, looking out the side window, grooming, changing the radio dial, looking for your sunglasses in the glove apartment, or conversing with passengers. However, safety advocates are generally aiming at hand-held cell phone use as the main non-driving activity whenever distracted driving is discussed since it has been an issue in many serious and fatal car accidents. And Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker is taking steps to emphasize that danger by urging lawmakers to prohibit all use of hand-held phones while driving on our highways.
We get many calls from folks who claim that their divorce lawyer, usually at the last minute, convinced them to settle; wherefore, they sign and later claim that they had to forgo claims they now see as a valuable asset. Frequently it’s because their Massachusetts divorce attorney failed to undertake complete discovery and then, when the trial was imminent, strongly encouraged the client to settle for the best deal they cold get, given the weak case. But not always.
Traffic deaths reached 40,000 for the third year in a row in 2018 according to the National Safety Council, reversing a downward trend that saw fatalities dip below that number for several years in prior years. There was an all-time low in 2014 when 32,744 people lost their lives on the roadways. The highest recorded total was in 1972 when 55,600 were killed in car accidents. Serious injuries sustained in car accidents remained high at 4.5 million last year.
In past years when traffic fatalities were substantially high, safety advocates and groups like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers lobbied hard for stricter penalties and enforcement of traffic laws. For a time following the oil crisis in the mid-1970s when speed limits were lowered, highway deaths dipped a bit before creeping up again when too many complaints about the slower limits forced lawmakers to raise speeds.
As long as there are humans driving cars and in vehicles equipped to travel at high speeds, there will be speed-related accidents. One-third of all traffic deaths in the US are caused by excessive speeding with Massachusetts hovering at 28%. This includes not only cars traveling well above the default or posted speed limit but those that travel too fast for the road or weather conditions.
A report issued by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that reducing roadway speed was a low priority among policymakers and others. The GHSA and the Institute of Highways Safety are planning a forum to discuss the challenge of making law and policymakers aware of the problem and suggesting ways to make speed reduction a high priority.
Hit-and-run accidents are irresponsible, insidious acts, especially if the perpetrators flee the accident scene leaving victims seriously injured or even dead. Their failure to come to the aid of a victim and to take responsibility is outrageous to the victim, the victim’s family, friends, and to the community.
A tragic hit-and-run incident occurred in early February in Somerville when a 40-year old woman was struck in the crosswalk at the intersection of Powderhouse Boulevard and Hardan Road by an unidentified motorist in a pickup truck around 7:00 p.m. The woman, a teacher with the Watertown Public Schools, later succumbed to fatal injuries. A companion walking with her was also struck but only suffered minor injuries. The family of the victim and residents of Somerville were left dazed by the incident, with some expressing disbelief at how anyone could flee and not stop to assist a person whom they had just injured.