Massachusetts drivers over the past decade and likely before then have consistently ranked among the worst users of seat belts in the nation. All states with the exception of New Hampshire that only requires seat belt use if under 18 oblige all drivers and occupants to wear a seat belt. The states with the highest usage rates are California and Georgia at 98%.
Distracted driving is now as prominent a safety issue as drunk or impaired driving. While intense public awareness campaigns, stricter penalties, and more attention by law enforcement has made a dent in drunk driving accidents and fatalities, the same cannot yet be said for distracted driving. In a minor incident on the Mass. Turnpike in early April, a state trooper was rear-ended by a motorist who was apparently distracted by his GPS device. Fortunately, the officer only suffered minor injuries. This mishap only underscores the risk that distracted driving poses. If a police officer can be the victim of distracted driving, then anyone else certainly can.
UPS recently announced that it was honoring 25 of its Massachusetts drivers for having at least 25-years of driving without an accident. The honor means that their names will be inscribed in the company’s Circle of Honor that lists the names of its drivers for similar safe driving records worldwide. Massachusetts has 193 drivers in this UPS hall of fame with one driver boasting 39-years of service without an accident. This is remarkable given the long hours many drivers are on the road, and in all kinds of weather and traffic conditions. To date, UPS has around 2,310 drivers on Massachusetts roads.
Motorcycle riders came together recently in Medford to promote April as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. Medford Mayor Stephanie Burke met with safety advocates, riders, and motorcycle policemen in a Motorcycle Safety Proclamation ceremony outside City Hall to emphasize that the warmer weather will be bringing out more riders to the streets and that motorists need to be aware of their presence. Medford has 806 registered riders while the state has a reported 165,000 registered bikes.
Cambridge and Somerville are two communities that are in the forefront of improving pedestrian and bicycling safety by employing the latest technologies designed to reduce serious injuries and fatalities on city streets. These two cities have been chosen to implement new technology in a Smart City Pilot Program that is designed to measure human activity in certain urban areas as a tool for minimizing the risk of pedestrians injured by motor vehicles. These cities are already dedicated to an international project known as Vision Zero whose goal is to essentially eliminate traffic-related fatalities by mid-century.
Route 24 is a 40-mile stretch of highway in eastern Massachusetts that runs north-south between Randolph and Fall River. Because of the high incidence of collisions and fatal accidents on this roadway, it has been dubbed one of the deadliest highways in the state. Some travelers call it the “Death Highway.” One person who was interviewed by a news reporter after a MassDot report was released regarding the dangers of Route 24, compared the roadway to the German Autobahn where there are no speed limits, or to Nascar, the racing forum. He said he feared that any time he was on that roadway that it might be his last. He also noted that people texting and driving was a common sight as were cars greatly exceeding the speed limit. Others interviewed wondered why highway patrol cars were seldom seen or not stopping more speeders.
Presently the use of cell phones by non-lawyers is banned in many Massachusetts Courthouses. However, the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission (MAJC) recently issued a report that concluded that this ban creates hardships, especially for pro-se litigants (parties without attorneys). For example, the Commission found that folks need to show the Court photographs, videos, text messages and other “evidence” that may be critical to their case but that they are unable to produce any other way. This is especially true for small claims cases and abuse cases where the litigant does not have an attorney but has his or her best evidence on their phone.