Articles Posted in Car Accidents

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Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. National_Postal_Museum

commerce-acts-books-477966-mWhat’s true for the post office is true for other drivers – cars, trucks and motorcycles. Getting around the North Shore on its highways (Route 93, Route 1, Route 128) or its byways in and around Lynn, Reading, Wakefield, Saugus, Lynnfield or wherever your home town is, means traveling in all sorts of conditions. Getting to and from work, after work socializing, heading to the Garden for a Bruins or Celtics game – wet or snowy weather doesn’t prevent us from our appointed rounds. Getting to the destination safely when visibility is affected by lousy weather may depend on windshield visibility. Visibility is a challenge when it is snowing and from the salt and spray after a storm. Well maintained and clean windshield wipers can help keep the glass clear of snow and ice and help your visibility in snowy conditions. It can prevent a car accident.

Replacing your windshield wiper blades regularly will help keep your windshield clear.  According to JiffyLube, “over time, rubber elements in your windshield wiper blades break down due to oxidation and damage from the sun, becoming stiff and brittle. They also wear out from rubbing back and forth across the glass surface. Eventually, worn windshield wipers leave streaks and blurry spots, affecting your ability to see the road ahead”.  You don’t want to be caught in a winter storm or have impaired vision due to road spray from ineffective windshield wipers.  According to RainX, you should replace your windshield wipers every 6 months to a year or whenever you notice a difference is visibility.  RainX suggests changing your windshield wipers on Groundhog Day as a helpful way to remember to do so.  It also suggests inspecting your wiper blades as part of routine maintenance.

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Winter driving has unique challenges. From Lynnfield to Saugus to Salem and all North Shore Towns in between, winter weather causes roads like Route 1, Route 93 and Route 128 to become icy and slick. Paying attention to car safety before hitting the road can help make sure you have a safe and comfortable trip regardless of the wintery weather.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mThere are several areas of your car you may want to pay extra attention to.  According to SafeMotorist.com one of the first things a driver should check are the headlights and taillights.  Visibility due to winter conditions can be decreased – from the weather or from road spray or even how early it gets dark this time of year. Properly working lights will help other cars see you even when visibility is low.

You also need to have good tires on your car for the winter months.  Tires are designed to grip the road and properly inflated tires with excellent tread may be one of your best defenses against slippery roads.  You want to make sure your tires are not bald, worn or improperly inflated.  Auto experts suggest rotating tires twice a year to help prolong their life, and also having tires aligned once a year.  Among the most important thing you should pay attention to is tire pressure. The colder it is the lower your tire pressure will drop. While checking your tire pressure it is also a good time to look for signs of uneven wear, embedded objects or bubbles in the sidewall of your tire. SafeMotorist.com also reminds drivers not to neglect the spare tire.  You should make sure the spare tire is properly inflated in case of an emergency.

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Riding your Harley on Route 128 heading to Salem, Gloucester or elsewhere on Cape Ann, or perhaps heading north on Old Newburyport Turnpike (Route 1) to the Topsfield, Newburyport area: motorcycle safety is critical. To operate a motorcycle in Massachusetts requires a class M license, permit or endorsement. You must be 18 years or older; or if between 16 1/2 and under 18 successfully complete a Massachusetts rider education basic course and meet all Massachusetts junior operating requirements. Of course in the middle of winter we see fewer motorcycle operators on the roads or highways of the Northshore, but with the weather we have been having on the North Shore, there are still riders out there and summer will be here soon enough.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mWhether you ride a motorcycle or not, it’s a good idea to review basic motorcycle safety. Do you pay attention to motorcycles when you are driving? Too many drivers forget to pay attention to sharing the road with motorcyclists. According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation “when motorcycles and other vehicles collide, it is usually the other (non-motorcycle) driver who violates the motorcyclist’s right of way.” Drivers often do not anticipate the motorcyclist’s movements and do not see motorcycles due to the motorcycle’s size and the car’s blind spots which may obscure the motorcycle and its driver.  It is important for auto drivers to look out for motorcyclists and make sure to respect the motorcyclist’s right of way.

There are also safety tips for motorcycles drivers to keep in mind.  Mass.gov recommends that before riding your motorcycle you should complete a road ready inspection, wear bright and protective clothing, and use proper lane position so drivers can see you, and always wear a helmet   According to Massachusetts General Law M.G.L.  90 §7 and the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles motorcyclists and their passengers must wear helmets that meet the current U.S. DOT’s Federal Vehicle Safety Standards and must also wear eyeglasses, goggles or a protective face shield if the motorcycle is not equipped with a wind shield or screen.  According to the National Safety Council the most important equipment a motorcyclist can use is a helmet: “helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries for operators and 41% for passengers, and they saved an estimated 1,699 lives in 2012, according to Injury Facts 2015.  An additional 781 lives could have been saved that year if all had worn helmets.”

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Navigating North Shore roadways can be difficult during the snowy and icy New England winters.  From the interstate highways of Routes 93 and 95 to the State maintained roads including Route 1 (the old Newburyport Turnpike) and Routes 114, 129 and 128, difficult driving conditions due to the weather and roadway congestion can result in accidents and injury.  commerce-acts-books-477966-mThe New Year is a good time to refresh our thinking about proper car safety to help minimize risk.  According to Mass.gov, “approximately 70% of winter deaths related to snow and ice occur in automobiles”.  We have already experienced some winter weather, with a coating of snow and dangerous layer of ice.  It will likely get more challenging in the coming months. Preparing your car for winter can really make a difference.  Some suggestions: (1) keep your gas tank at least half-full to prevent your fuel line from freezing; (2) install good winter tires with adequate tread and pressure; and (3) check your antifreeze, battery, defroster, windshield wipers, wiper fluid, and other vehicle equipment to make sure they are ready for winter driving.  Be prepared, plan ahead and stay safe.

It also is sensible to listen to traffic and weather reports for your departure location and destination. Allow for extra travel time if the road conditions may be slippery or changeable.  Being prepared for icy or snowy roadways, check that your defroster is working and that you have a good ice scraper and emergency flares handy.  Clear ice and snow from windows, headlights, taillights and the roof and hood of your car before departing.  It can be dangerous when snow and ice fly from your car and inadvertently hit another vehicle. Also, know that there is a new law in Massachusetts as of April 7, 2015 whereby all car operators must use headlights whenever windshield wipers are on or if visibility is poor.  Further, slow down and use caution on bridges and highway ramps since bridges and overpasses freeze faster than roadways; and always leave extra braking distance between you and the car in front of you, as stopping distances are longer on wet or icy roads.

It is crucial to practice good care safety year round, not just in the winter.  According to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles:

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After a day of feasting and football (will the Lions ever be good?), Americans will gear up for a day filled with holiday shopping—Black Friday.  The stores at the North Shore Mall, the Burlington Mall, the Square One Mall, and Lynnfield Market Street have been advertising deals for weeks and folks will begin lining up at the doors once Thanksgiving dinner is finished.  Shopping on Black Friday has become a family tradition for many, with the anticipation of saving money on Holiday gifts.  Finding that special bargain is part of the fun.  With some stores it even starts on Thanksgiving night, goodness!

commerce-acts-books-477966-mAlong with the excitement of Black Friday comes an increased risk of accidents.  Mall parking lots will be swamped with pedestrians, shopping carts, frenzied drivers, children of all ages and sizes excited for the holiday, and cars searching for parking spots near the mall entrances.  The potential for accidents sky rockets.  According to Progressive Insurance, parking related accidents increase 36.5% on Black Friday.  Progressive reports that rear-ending someone or getting rear-ended, accounts for 12.57% of claims; hitting a parked car or having your parked car hit by someone else, totals 11.13% of claims; and backing into another car or having your car backed into, accounts for 7.68% of claims.  Not only are car accidents an issue but the potential for slip and falls in parking lots increases too.  It is not unusual in Massachusetts to experience inclement weather around Thanksgiving and some years it has been cold enough for ice and snow on walkways and parking areas; which means an increased risk for slips and falls and car accidents.  To help avoid accidents, wear winter footwear and be aware of changing conditions.  Black ice is not unheard of on Black Friday.

After safely getting past the hazards in the parking lots on Black Friday, the shopping starts.  Now begins the potential for accidents while meandering in the mall or price checking in the stores.  When stores first open on Black Friday, there is also the risk of overly enthusiastic shoppers who have been waiting to get started since the early hours of the morning.  When those doors open it’s possible that someone could be injured in a stampede to get to the special sale items.  According to the United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration, retailers should practice crowd management during known busy shopping days such as Black Friday to avoid any accidents.  Slip and fall accidents are also prevalent in stores.  Wet floors (if the weather is bad), large crowds, pushing or shoving can all lead to slips and falls.  Head and body injuries from careless elbows or falling merchandise can be serious and ruin the holidays with unexpected pain, discomfort and doctor visits.

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With the evolution of technology comes the evolution of Massachusetts rules, laws, and statutes.  In recent years we have seen rapid change in smart phones, cellular use and data transmission and communications.  These developments affect Massachusetts drivers in very real ways.  People not only get and make phone calls while driving, but send and receive emails, chats, text messages, snap chats and the like.  In 2010 Massachusetts enacted the Safe Driving Law which bans texting while driving and prohibits cellphone use by junior operators age 18 and younger. Currently, adult operators in Massachusetts are allowed to hold their cellphones to make a call while driving, as long as they are not texting or emailing.  Note however, if you cross state lines, the laws for cell phone use vary from state to state.  According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, New Hampshire and Connecticut banned all handheld cell use for all drivers.  In Rhode Island, novice drivers are banned from all cell phone use and from all texting, but not adult primary drivers.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mIn some states bordering Massachusetts recent laws to address distracted driving have taken things to the next level and now require all motor vehicle operators to use only hands-free technology.  There is speculation in Massachusetts that the Commonwealth will follow the trend and allow only hands-free cellphone use while driving.  Several bills have been submitted for the 2015-2016 legislative session in support of hands-free only cellphone use for Massachusetts.  If enacted, a hands-free law would require up to date and current accessories, such as a Bluetooth enabled vehicle, voice commands, and in some instances, a new smart phone!

Regardless of the changing rules and laws on use of smart phones in the car, there are no guarantees that a hands-free law would reduce the amount of accidents or fatalities due to distracted driving.  Opponents of hands-free laws argue that motorists can be distracted by a cellphone call regardless of whether or not they are holding the device.  They would also argue that distracted driving is not just caused by cellphones but by eating and drinking, playing with the radio, streaming music, reading maps or GPS, arguing children, energetic pets or even personal grooming.  On the flip side, a hands-free mandate would make it easier for law enforcement officials to enforce the 2010 Safe Driving Law because officials would not have to determine if an operator was texting or making a phone call.  Recent studies have revealed that banning the use of hand-held devises while driving (the results are taken from a study of four jurisdictions, including Connecticut and the District of Columbia) has NOT reduced accident rates.  The month to month changes in accident claims did not change before and after cell phone bans took effect.  The study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found that in the states which banned hand-held cell use there was a significant reduction in hand-held phone use; but HLDI remains mystified as to why there is no corresponding drop in the accident rates.

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Throughout Massachusetts we fell back on Sunday November 1. That is the clocks were set back one hour.  Media anecdotes and clichés as to the benefits of the one hour change are repeated with each cycle of the seasons.  Parents feel better because school buses can pick up their children when it is light, we can save on utility bills because we make better use of the daylight hours, it helped America beat the oil embargo and so on. http://www.timeanddate.com/time/dst/history.html  But there are contrary arguments supporting that it is time to end the practice. Lifestyles have changed, it doesn’t really save electricity, it gets dark way too early and sleep loss or change in sleeping patterns can be a real problem.  http://www.bustle.com/articles/120870-6-valid-reasons-daylight-saving-time-should-go-away-forever

commerce-acts-books-477966-mGetting to work on a Monday morning can be a real hassle with clogged roads and job demands.  All of the major routes into Boston are clogged with cars, including Route 1 on the North Shore, Route 95, Route 93 and Route 28. The first Monday after turning back the clocks can be especially bad. Sleepy drivers, dark highways and rushing to work are a dangerous mix.  Traffic accidents tend to spike the first Monday after daylight savings time, as motorists struggle with an hour less sleep and darker early morning road conditions, according to the experts. “When I was traffic commissioner, I always noticed a surge in crashes the week after daylight savings,” said Sam (Gridlock Sam) Schwartz, a former NYC traffic commissioner now in private consulting.   Research from a University of British Columbia professor who looked at U.S. crash data from 1986 through 1995 and found a 17% spike in accidents the Monday immediately after daylight savings time kicked in.  An earlier study by the same professor, Stanley Coren, looked at Canadian crash data from the early 1990s and found an 8% spike. “It’s a consequence of millions of us being sleep-deprived at the same time. Our otherwise near misses become accidents due to fatigue,” said Martin Moore-Ede, a former professor at Harvard Medical School and an expert on driver fatigue.  http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/car-crashes-spike-monday-daylight-savings-time-starts-article-1.1283717

Austin Smith, a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado-Boulder, in a paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association, discussed national data on all fatal car crashes from 2002 to 2011 to see what happens immediately after people reset their clocks in the spring and fall. He did so by comparing the number of crashes that occur just before and after the time changes in each year. The result: Fatal crashes increased by about 6 percent over the 6 days immediately following the spring transition, but didn’t change after the fall transition. Because people “lose” an hour only in spring, and because the accidents weren’t concentrated at times when changes in daylight might have been a factor, Smith attributes the spike in crashes to inadequate sleep. He estimates that the 6 percent increase amounted to more than 300 added deaths over the 10-year period he studied.  http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2015/01/07/351742.htm

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“By the prickling of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes” (Shakespeare, Macbeth Act 4, scene 1, 44–49).

Salem, on the North Shore of Massachusetts, is the ideal place for celebrating Halloween.  Throughout the North Shore more and more people are enjoying the autumn weather and Salem has become an increasingly popular destination for those wishing to celebrate the traditions of Halloween.  During the month of October, the history of the Salem Witch Trials collides with the hauntingly spectacular traditions of costumes and trick or treating. There is even a lawsuit just filed in the Essex County Superior Court in Salem where a witch is suing a warlock!

commerce-acts-books-477966-mMeanwhile, children and adults alike are looking forward to donning their costumes for Halloween and heading out to the neighborhoods of the North Shore for some trick or treating fun.  When out and about on October 31st be sure to take precautions and keep the night safe and avoid accidents for yourself and the little goblins out there.

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Fall and the crisp refreshing autumn air is here.  School is back in session and summer is a fading memory.  Many towns on the North Shore of Massachusetts transport students by school bus.  Safety on the bus, to and from school, is paramount.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mThe autumn climate makes waiting for the bus in our North Shore towns (Lynn, Lynnfield, Saugus, Wakefield and the like) pleasant.  But once the cold arrives; not so much.  Reliability of the bus arriving and on time is important.  Safely transporting the children to and from school, even more so.  According to a September 21, 2015 Boston Globe article “School bus times improve, but still face criticism”  too many children riding the bus to school in Boston are tardy arriving to class and the return trip home is not any more reliable as some kids are getting home late, sometimes up to an hour or more after the scheduled drop off time. This is causing concern for parents who may become nervous that their kids have been left at the bus stop; while at the same time dealing with Boston traffic and getting to work on time.  Further, with budget concerns, bus routes are longer and the buses more crowded, increasing the risk that our kids could be in an accident and may be seriously hurt. In Massachusetts school buses are not required to have seat belts.  Having latch key children is worrisome enough without the added stress of not knowing when they will be picked up or dropped off, or if they may be injured in an accident to or from school.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (the “NHTSA”) a “school-transportation-related crash is a crash that involves, either directly or indirectly, a school bus body vehicle, or a non-school bus functioning as a school bus, transporting children to or from school or school-related activities. NHTSA Data shows that from 2004 to 2013 there were 340,039 fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those, 1,214 were classified as school-transportation-related including both student bus occupants and student pedestrians.  More school-age pedestrians were killed from 7 to 8 a.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m. than any other hours of the day.