Massachusetts Passes Law To Protect Vulnerable Road Users

Massachusetts Passes Law To Protect Vulnerable Road Users

Each year, about 70 Massachusetts residents die in pedestrian accidents across the state. Another seven cyclists are killed on Massachusetts roads every year. And this state is one of the last to enact safe passing laws that could help to protect vulnerable road users.

But the good news is that during his last days in office, Governor Baker signed legislation aimed at protecting these very citizens. Read on to learn more about the new law and what changes you can expect to see on Massachusetts roads.

Who Are Vulnerable Road Users?

Before we dive into the regulations this new law puts in place, let’s talk about who the “vulnerable road users” it protects are. Previously, cyclists were the only ones protected under safer roads laws. 

The new law expands “vulnerable road users” to include

  • Pedestrians and cyclists
  • People using wheelchairs and personal mobility devices
  • People traveling on skateboards, scooters, roller skates, tricycles, and handcycles
  • People on motorized bicycles and scooters
  • Emergency responders and workers engaged in road and utility projects
  • People traveling on horses, horse-drawn carriages, and farming tractors

These people share the road with cars, but they aren’t able to move as fast and don’t have the frame of a car to protect them in the event of a collision.

Rules for Passing

Perhaps the biggest change in this new law is the addition of rules for vehicles passing vulnerable road users. Up until this point, Massachusetts hasn’t had any regulations covering how to safely pass these individuals. The state has been far behind in this arena – at least thirty-five other states have already enacted laws governing safe passing.

The new Massachusetts law specifies that cars must leave at least four feet of space between them and vulnerable road users when passing at 30 mph or under. 

For every speed 10 mph over 30 mph, drivers have to add an extra foot of clearance. So drivers traveling at 70 mph would have to leave eight feet between themselves and vulnerable road users.

New Truck Regulations

The new law also adds extra safety regulations for trucks driving on Massachusetts roads. Large trucks that are owned or contracted by the state have to carry extra safety equipment now. 

That equipment includes:

  • Lateral side guards
  • Convex and other mirrors
  • Backup cameras

The goal of this extra equipment is to make it easier for truck drivers to see the vulnerable road users around them. If they don’t see them, the side guards are meant to help buffer collisions and minimize the resulting injuries.

Speed Limit Regulations

The new legislation also changes how cities can manage speed limits within their boundaries. 

Since 2016, cities have been able to “opt in” to lowering their default speed limits to 25 miles per hour on especially populated roads. But now they can gain control over the state highways that run through their jurisdictions, too.

Under the new law, cities can petition the state to lower the speed limit on the section of state highways within their borders. The state will have 90 days to approve or deny these petitions. 

This can keep vehicles from speeding through residential areas and may reduce the severity of pedestrian accidents.

Additional New Rules

There are a few other rules that the new law adds to Massachusetts safety codes. 

It adds new systems for officials to collect statewide data on accidents involving vulnerable road users. This data can be used to help guide future policy changes that impact these individuals.

Cyclists in Massachusetts will now be required to have a red light on the back of their bicycle when riding at night. This will help to make them more visible and reduce their risk of being hit by a car or truck.

Make the Roads Safer

Cyclists, pedestrians, and people on small vehicles are among the most vulnerable road users in Massachusetts. This new law helps to protect them from crashes with cars and trucks. From new safe passing regulations to changes in speed limit procedures, these laws will hopefully help to reduce deaths in the State of Massachusetts.

Do you have questions about road safety in your city?,  Contact us and we’ll get back to you.