Senate Ways and Means Draft: An Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means has reported a new draft of An Act to reduce traffic fatalities, which will be debated later this week.  This bill was developed by several members of the legislature in collaboration with a coalition of bicycle, pedestrian and transportation advocates.  The bill was redrafted slightly from the version reported from the Transportation Committee.

This bill would:

Require anyone riding a bicycle at night to use both a red rear light and a red rear reflector.  Currently law requires either a red light or red reflector.  Current law also requires a front white light when riding at night.

Define several different types of road users as “vulnerable road users” including but not limited to pedestrians, road and utility workers, first responders,  cyclists, persons using wheelchairs, persons operating farm equipment and persons on horseback.  Define a safe passing distance between motor vehicles and vulnerable road users of at least 3 feet when traveling at 30 miles per hour or less and an additional foot of clearance for every 10 miles per hour about 30 miles per hour.  Current law only requires that drivers pass at “a safe distance and at a reasonable and proper speed.”  Require a vehicle that is overtaking a vulnerable road user to use all or part of the adjacent lane, crossing the centerline if necessary, when it cannot pass at a safe distance in the same lane and only when it is safe to do so.

Require certain large vehicles or trailers that are purchased or leased by the Commonwealth after January 1, 2019 or operated pursuant to a contract with the Commonwealth after January 1, 2020 to be equipped with lateral protective devices, convex mirrors and cross-over mirrors.  The high ground clearance of large trucks makes a cyclist or pedestrian involved in an accident vulnerable to slipping under and being crushed by the rear wheels.  Lateral protective devices or side guards are barriers that extend between a truck’s wheels, eliminating the high clearance that poses a danger to cyclists and pedestrians.   Convex mirrors and cross-over mirrors increase driver’s ability to see around their vehicle.

Require the EOPSS to develop a standardized analysis tool to report crashes and incidents involving a vulnerable road user and maintain a publicly accessible database of such reports.  Better data will help inform further efforts to reduce traffic fatalities.

Establish a 25 mph speed limit on an unposted area of a state highway or parkway inside a thickly settled or business districting within a city or town that has accepted the 25 mph local option.  Lower vehicle speeds reduce the severity of crashes.  Lowering the speed limit on similar state roads will provide continuity in communities that have adopted the local option.

Andrew Bettinelli
Chief of Staff
Office of Senator William N. Brownsberger

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10 Comments

  1. Thank you for introducing this bill. Defining safe passing distance and requiring cyclists to adopt additional safety measures will help clarify these important rules. Gathering better quality data on automobile accidents will help responsible parties to identify trouble spots and design safer routes. If passed, this bill will be another step towards safer more accessible communities throughout the Commonwealth. Keep up the good work.

  2. “Require anyone riding a bicycle at night to use both a red rear light and a red rear reflector. Currently law requires either a red light or red reflector. Current law also requires a front white light when riding at night.”

    Is there a penalty defined for failure to adhere to this rule? It’s troubling that this exists as part of this bill as it is already widely accepted in the cycling communities that laws like this are frequently used by police forces to justify harassment and overreach by police forces in underprivileged communities. The existing law seemed adequate enough for ensuring visibility of cyclists at night.

  3. This bill is nice, I guess.

    However, I cycle quite a bit (just rode to work this morning, 17 miles). Unequivocally, the worst hazard I face as a cyclist is a result of the roads themselves. Most back roads in this state have little or no shoulder and the poor quality road construction leads to lots of potholes.

    I already ride with lights, including during the day and the other measures are unlikely to make a statistical difference. If the streets had decent shoulders, the 25mph limit would be unnecessary.

  4. Thank you very much for this bill. As a bicycle rider, I especially appreciate the additional clearance.

  5. Thanks. While on the subject of safety on the road, the Senate passed Bill 2092, “An Act to Prevent Driver Distraction and Motor Vehicle Fatalities” which prohibits the use of cell phone and other handheld electronic devices while driving a motor vehicle. The House has yet to do anything with it. Why? How can we help to move this forward?

  6. Can we remove the required rear red light, just leaving the required rear red reflector? While I always try to ride with a rear red light, day or night, in the cold winter months it’s all too easy to have batteries die without you realizing it. This is even more of a problem now that most bicycle lights are using rechargeable lithium batteries, which do not like the cold.

  7. I am a driver and pedestrian, not a cyclist. I am appalled that 1% of cyclists stop at red lights as required by law. Most appalling are the cyclists pulling trailers with infants and toddlers inside, sailing through red lights into traffic. I am sick of walking on the Esplanade and around Fresh Pond which are supposedly shared thoroughfares, and frequently having to dive out of the path of oncoming speeding cyclists who never accommodate the right of way of any other travelers. Please fix these issues before considering expansion of access.

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