It is no secret to people who regularly commute to work or who have continued to do so despite the pandemic that has resulted in so many retail and other businesses being shut down, including here in Massachusetts, that traffic volume on our highways has been significantly reduced. A substantial number of employers have allowed and now encourage its employees to work remotely. So, given the decrease in traffic volume over the past year, have insurers given its policy holders a break in their premiums and, if so, will they continue to do so?
The new Massachusetts distracted driving law goes into effect on February 23, 2020. Until April 1, 2020, traffic officers will only issue warnings to motorists who are observed to be talking or otherwise using a cellphone that is not hands-free to get them accustomed to the new law.
A particularly embarrassing incident occurred this summer when the fire chief for the city of Norwell, Massachusetts, was cited for distracted driving after apparently causing an accident on Washington Street in Hanover. Fire Chief Reardon of Norwell was in his city owned vehicle around 9:00 a.m. when he admittedly received a text. While looking at the message, he failed to notice that traffic had stopped in front of him. His Chevrolet Tahoe rear-ended an Isuzu box truck with two occupants, which in turn rear-ended a Toyota Camry. All who were involved suffered injuries and were treated at South Shore Hospital. The extent of their injuries was not reported.
Teen drivers are new drivers. Driving is a skill that needs to be practiced like any other. However, even though experience is needed so that any novice driver can learn how to navigate under various traffic conditions, most teen accidents occur due to unnecessary risk taking or poor judgement.
Texting while driving has caused too many collisions. Since 2010, Massachusetts has outlawed texting while driving. This law, however, did not ban using your cellphone for making calls or scrolling through your email unless you are a driver under the age of 21. In the past few years, lawmakers have introduced legislation banning any hand-held use of cellphones for all drivers but the measures either stalled or died quietly in the House. Governor Baker did not endorse a full ban either, feeling it was unfair to drivers in older vehicles that lacked the technology that permitted hands-free use.
In previous blogs on my website, we have discussed the mind-boggling fact that Massachusetts drivers rank among the worst users of seat belts! As of 2017, we moved to 45th in the nation from a low of 48th, but our usage dropped. Just last year, our drivers were restrained an average of 78.2% of the time while driving. Current statistics have our drivers buckling up at only 74 %. Our sister state, New Hampshire, is dead last at just over 70%.
Periodically, we get reports of Uber drivers assaulting passengers. A number of cases have been filed across the nation alleging that passengers or riders were sexually assaulted by their Uber driver. This begs the question of what kind of background checks Uber is conducting of its drivers so as to protect the public?
Are rotaries safe? Traffic engineers who designed these traffic flow systems seemed to think so, but sentiments are changing. Rotaries, also called roundabouts, are a common feature in many European countries. The difference between a roundabout and a rotary is that the former has one lane for traffic to circle and the later has multiple lanes. The theory behind these systems is that they facilitate the smooth movement of vehicles into a constantly moving circle at reduced speeds.
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are required in all residences in Massachusetts. Owners of rental units must ensure that smoke alarms are in good working condition and comply with state law. Homes that were built before 1975 and are sold must have smoke alarms with a 10-year life span. No residential property can exchange owners without its smoke alarms being certified by the local Fire Marshall. If people are injured or killed because a smoke alarm in their residence was missing or failed to operate, you may have a injury or wrongful death lawsuit. We represented a family in which a malfunctioning smoke detector was the cause of a mother of a two-year old’s death.
Have you ever been on a pub crawl in Massachusetts? This is just another name for bar-hopping where you and friends travel from pub to pub having a drink or two at each one. Usually, there is either a designated driver or, more frequently given their ubiquity, an Uber or Lyft so that the crawlers need not worry about being stopped and arrested for drunk driving. Unfortunately, one of these pub crawls resulted in a tragic accident in McHenry County, Illinois.