Lawmakers weighing proposals to enforce sharing the road
Over the past several years, bicycle and pedestrian accidents have been on the rise in Boston and throughout Massachusetts. Now, state lawmakers are considering new regulations to protect some of the most vulnerable people on the road.
One such measure, known as the Vulnerable Users Bill, would require motorists and truckers to respect a three-foot minimum passing distance when driving near vulnerable users - a category that includes pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, road workers, emergency responders and people in wheelchairs. The bill specifies that motorists may cross into another lane or even cross a center line if necessary to maintain that safe distance.
At the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone, we've handled many cases in which pedestrians, bicyclists and other vulnerable users have been severely injured or killed after being hit by a vehicle. While cars are becoming safer and safer for people inside them, those who don't have the protection of a vehicle are as vulnerable as ever.
Last year, pedestrian accidents accounted for 15 percent of all traffic fatalities, according to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association. That figure, which has been rising for a decade, shows that motorists need to do more to share the road.
Other proposed measures include truck side guards, ban on blocking bicycle lanes
Another proposed measure would require protective side guards to be installed on certain large vehicles, such as commercial trucks. One of the reasons truck accidents can be so deadly is that smaller vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians are often dragged underneath the trailer and wheels of the truck, causing severe injuries. Side guards placed between the front and back wheels push cyclists and other vulnerable users away from the vehicle.
Boston already has a side-guard ordinance in place, though it only applies to vehicles contracted by the city. Advocates hope that the state legislature will be able to expand the side-guard requirement to vehicles throughout the state.
A third important measure would prevent motorists from stopping or parking in bicycle lanes. When a vehicle blocks the bicycle lane, cyclists need to veer into traffic, creating a very dangerous situation.
Many bicycle accidents happen when a vehicle hits the cyclist from behind, as motorists aren't always prepared to share the road with smaller and slower cyclists. Regulations keeping the dedicated bicycle lanes clear for cyclists would prevent many of these accidents from occurring.
As with all new traffic laws, though, motorists are ultimately responsible for respecting the rules of the road and making sure they drive in a way that keeps others safe - especially vulnerable users like pedestrians and cyclists. New regulations are a key part of the process of holding negligent drivers accountable and keeping the road safe.