By: Karen Piso Nadeau, Esquire
The Question & Answer:
What is the new Move Over Law proposed in the MA State Legislature?
The new Move Over Law proposed in the MA State Legislature seeks harsher penalties for drivers approaching a stationary emergency vehicle or maintenance vehicle with flashing lights who fail to move to next adjacent lane and slow down if it is safe to do so.
The existing Move Over Law took effect on March 22, 2009. The law’s goals are to protect emergency vehicles and for roadway safety. The law requires a driver approaching a stationary emergency or maintenance vehicle with flashing lights to move to the next adjacent lane and slow down if it is safe to do so. The fine for a violation is currently up to $100.
Three bills have been proposed to the legislature for stricter penalties. The argument is that the current law is not enough. Law enforcement supports stricter penalties. Public officials, police and family members of law enforcement spoke at the Joint Committee of Transportation Meeting. According to a database from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 166 law enforcement officers were struck and killed over a ten year period from 2012-2022 in the US. This does not include non-fatal injuries.
Massachusetts first responders are seeking a harsher Move Over Law to improve the safety and wellbeing of people. They believe that the current law is not harsh enough and seek stricter penalties. First responders and emergency crew want urgent passage of the new bill that would change the current law of up to a $100 penalty. The State Police Association of MA seeks an increase to $250 for the 1st offense and a criminal misdemeanor for an injury to a first responder. For a 2nd offense, they seek a $500 fine and seek a $1,000 fine for a 3rd or subsequent offense.
The proposal for this new Move Over Law was endorsed by Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan during an October 2023 legislative hearing. The new bill also seeks a $2,500 fine and up to 1 year in prison for any violation resulting in a person getting injured. Middlesex District Attorney Ryan sees this as an “education campaign”. First responders and emergency vehicle workers place themselves in danger every day in their efforts to help the public. The law is asking drivers to pay attention and look ahead. Notice if something is going on ahead of you and slow down. Move to the left. These safe driving measures save lives.
The new law would also require 2nd and 3rd offenders to complete a program through the registry of motor vehicles that “encourages a change in driver behavior and attitude about the Move Over Law” according to the bill.
The President of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, Patrick McNamara, said that the legislation is recognized as the Trooper Thomas Devlin bill in honor of the 58-year-old trooper who was struck by a car during a traffic stop in Billerica and died. Trooper Devlin’s widow, Nancy Devlin, spoke of the family’s enormous loss when a motorist veered into the breakdown lane while traveling at highway speed and not slowing down and struck her husband. She supports tougher penalties, so no other family has to endure what they have. The injuries and fatalities are all preventable. The new law will protect police, fire, ambulance, and tow truck drivers and help them to go home to their families, she said.
There does not appear to be opposition to these bills. Some have remarked that the biggest obstacle is the slow legislative process.
The Question & Answer:
What is the City of Boston Doing with Speed Humps and What Are They?
The City of Boston plans to install hundreds of new speed humps in the city over the next three years. Speed humps are gradual mounds of asphalt built into the pavement and are approximately 3 inches high and 12-14 feet long. Speed humps are being used to slow down drivers in residential areas to make roads safer.
Over the next three years, the City of Boston is to install hundreds of new speed humps to help keep our streets safe and help reduce the risk of car accidents and serious injuries and fatalities due to the dangers of drivers on the city’s residential streets. The plan is to install 500 new speed humps a year over the next three years as part of the city’s “safety surge”. The main goal is to address the safety of people. There are too many vehicles speeding through residential neighborhoods, and people do not feel safe, according to Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Boston’s Chief of Streets.
One of the ways to make the roads safer is by installing these speed humps. The goal is to place them on every residential street in Boston. It is estimated to be 400 miles of streets. The speed humps are designed to be shorter and wider than typical speed bumps that we usually see in places such as shopping plazas. Drivers can drive over these speed humps at 20 mph or less.
Brendan Kearney, Co-Executive Director of Walk Massachusetts, a pedestrian advocacy organization, cited 435 fatal crashes involving all modes of traffic just last year statewide. There were 101 fatal pedestrian crashes. Prioritizing residential streets to make them slower for vehicular travel benefits the residents, neighbors, and general public. The signs that say, “Watch Children” and “Slow Down” are not enough, and drivers are not paying attention to them. The signs are unfortunately ignored to a large extent with drivers going through stop signs and flying down residential streets. Distracted driving is another dangerous issue, especially with the irresistible cell phone that often takes the driver’s eyes off the road. Speed hump signs are used to make drivers aware of the speed humps in the roadway, so they slow down.
Earlier in the year 2023, Mayor Wu announced the new program to bring safety tools to more neighborhoods more quickly in Boston using speed humps. These speed humps reduce the need for engineering and construction that typically slow down the process and allow these safety measures to come into play in a lot less time. The end result is a safer environment for those who walk, bike, play and live on the city streets.
Controversy Surrounding the Use of Speed Humps
Despite the benefits of speed humps and the structures acting as a deterrent, there is some controversy surrounding their use. There are some arguments raised against the use of these speed humps. For example, drivers have raised concerns about being unaware of the speed humps and being caught off guard. In Somerville, MA, the city was responding to complaints that some speed humps were catching drivers off guard. After a fatal crash on Powderhouse Boulevard in Somerville, MA in 2019, the City of Somerville began installing these speed humps. Despite seeing success in traffic safety, some drivers have experienced damage to their cars, and they believe the structures are hidden. Other people raised concerns about the noise and hearing cars bottom out on the humps. They argue that the speed humps increase traffic noise in neighborhoods. Another concern is the speed humps slow down emergency vehicle and there is concern that this slows down response time to emergencies and those in need.
In weighing the negatives and positives, these speed humps do what signs alone have not accomplished. Speed humps slow down drivers, reduce the speed of vehicles, and make our roads safer. They force drivers to be more aware of their surroundings and use their brakes. Speed humps ultimately reduce the risk of auto accidents with pedestrians, bicyclists, scooters, and children playing. This means fewer accidents with serious injury and fewer fatalities. The City of Boston seems to be trying to address some of the issues raised by these speed humps. They are using clear signage to make drivers aware, and this awareness means the drivers are not caught off guard and can prepare their vehicle for the speed bump by slowing down.
Representing those injured in accidents for 3 decades now, I have seen tragic cases involving vehicles traveling at high rates of speed. Often, the higher the speed, the more severe the injuries resulting from the car crash including catastrophic injuries such as brain injury and life altering injuries. I have seen college students crossing streets and bicyclists and kids on scooters and runners struck by speeding vehicles, turning my clients’ lives as they knew it upside down. The speed humps are designed to address this very dangerous risk of speeding vehicles. Looking ahead, the speed humps will make city neighborhoods safer for those who use them and reduce the risk of serious accidents.
I have also represented injured victims in accidents with emergency vehicles due to a driver failing to yield to these emergency vehicles. Drivers sometimes ignore the fact that there is an emergency vehicle and endanger all around them on the roads. The new proposed Move Over Law will help to remind drivers of their obligations on the road with emergency vehicles and make them think twice before violating the harsher law. Again, the proposed new law will reduce the risk of reckless driving and save lives.
At Nadeau Harkavy LLC, we have over 60 years combined experience representing injured people and their families when they have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, trip and fall or other type of accident. We have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients over the years to help them get on with their lives after suffering the consequences of a serious accident. We make sure everything is done to protect your interests while you and your family concentrate on getting better. We handle all types of car accident cases including wrongful death and brain injury. We represent drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, as well as other types of car accident cases such as scooter, motorcycle, and skateboard cases. We also handle other types of injury cases such as trip and fall, slip and fall, dog bite, construction site, and catastrophic injury accidents. If you or a loved one has been harmed through no fault of your own, call us today for a free consultation about your legal rights at 617-674-7640.