A recent Massachusetts Department of Transportation assessment identified “vulnerable road users” as people who use the roads but are not in a car or motor vehicle. This includes pedestrians, bicyclists, rollerbladers, and others.
Pedestrians include walkers, joggers, people who are biking, people on scooters, skateboards, or roller skates, as well as people who use wheelchairs and even roadside workers. Common pedestrian accidents include any accidents with motor vehicles or motorcycles and people who are not in cars but are in or along the roads.
Statewide, Massachusetts averaged about 70 deadly pedestrian accidents each year from 2017 to 2021. A record 101 pedestrians died on Massachusetts roads in 2022.
The majority of fatal pedestrian accidents happen in the colder months in Massachusetts. About 55% of pedestrian accidents from 2017 to 2021 happened between October and March. Deadly accidents happen more in these colder months due to less daylight, lower driver visibility, and sidewalks not being accessible due to snow and ice. The overall worst month from 2017 to 2021 was November, with more than 40 deadly pedestrian accidents taking place in that five-year period. Deadly accidents were also more likely between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.
In general, state law requires both pedestrians and drivers to be careful and to act with care for themselves and the people around them. There are, however, several specific rules drivers, walkers and joggers need to be aware of.
If you were injured as a pedestrian, whether by being struck by a car or motorcycle, you can call or text our office for a free consultation: (617) 889-5000.
Your Rights as a Walker or Jogger in Massachusetts
With Boston being such a walkable city and Massachusetts having many walkable communities and tourist towns, it is especially important for people to understand their rights as pedestrians in Massachusetts.
In many cases, pedestrians will have the right of way over people driving cars or motorcycles. This, however, is not always the case.
Knowing your rights as a pedestrian in Massachusetts is important so you know how to best protect yourself and be safe when you are walking or running near traffic.
While Massachusetts and Boston are working on improving the safety of pedestrians, it is still important to be careful as a pedestrian.
Types of Crosswalks in Massachusetts
Crosswalks can be one of the most dangerous places for people while walking or jogging. There are marked and unmarked crosswalks in Massachusetts.
An unmarked crosswalk is a place where people can legally cross the road, but the road does not have paint, light, or pedestrian walking signs that indicate it is a crossing point.
A marked crosswalk has road markings such as painted lines and often also has traffic signals with walking and stop signs for pedestrians. Unlike unmarked crosswalks, marked crosswalks have visual designations, including painted lines on the streets, blinking traffic lights, pedestrian crossing signs, and crosswalk signals. Marked crosswalks can be at intersections or across any part of a road.
Pedestrians can walk across the road at any intersection in Massachusetts unless it is expressly prohibited. A marked crosswalk or a light signal is not required for people to lawfully cross the street.
Common Injuries After Being Struck by a Car, Motorcycle, or Bike While Walking
Some of the very worst traffic-related accidents we see are when someone is hit by a car or motorcycle while walking or jogging through a crosswalk. A simple reason for the seriousness of the accidents and injuries is that pedestrians and people using the roadway who are not in cars do not have any of the safety protections that people in cars have.
Pedestrians include people who walk to work or enjoy being outside — whether on their feet, on a bike, or even on a scooter, rollerblades, or skateboard.
In addition to pedestrians not being protected by a car, the rise in popularity of SUVs has also made it much more dangerous for people to be struck by cars.
Most Common Injuries when People are Hit By Cars
- Lower Body Injuries
- A person’s lower body is often one of the first places to come into contact with a car when a driver strikes a pedestrian. About half of all pedestrians injured in car accidents experience lower-body injuries.
- Common lower body injuries include trauma to the ligaments and muscles, pelvis fractures, cuts and scrapes, and broken bones.
- Neck, Face, and Head Injuries
- Common injuries from the impact of a person with a car’s windshield or hood include spinal cord and vertebrae injuries, neck injuries, shoulder displacement, jaw fractures, skull and head injuries, cuts and scrapes, and concussions.
- Pedestrians are twice as likely to have a head injury than an injury to their chest or abdomen.
- Broken Bones and Fractures
- Fractures or broken bones are common for arms, wrists, hands, and legs after a person is hit by a car.
- Internal Injuries
- Common internal injuries after being hit by a car include internal bleeding, rib fractures, punctured lungs, brain bleeds, or damaged organs such as a ruptured spleen.
Many of these injuries are unseen, and symptoms might not appear immediately. However, especially in a pedestrian accident, many injuries can be life-threatening if not treated quickly.
If you were hit by a car or motorcycle, you should always seek medical attention after the accident.
Understanding Massachusetts Pedestrian Accident Laws
Pedestrian accidents and injuries are a serious concern in Massachusetts. About 365 pedestrians died in Massachusetts from 2016 to 2020.
In Boston, Vision Zero is working to reduce all types of traffic injuries and deaths in Massachusetts. This is especially important in the Boston metro area as most trips are made by people on foot, bike, or public transportation.
This program is implementing specific programs and new rules, however, there are also already a number of laws and rules statewide that explain the rules pedestrians and drivers should follow to avoid accidents and injuries.
Legally, Massachusetts defines a pedestrian as “any person afoot or riding on a conveyance moved by human power.” This would include when someone is walking, jogging, running or rollerblading, skateboarding, and sometimes even biking.
Rules for Pedestrian Crossingwalks and Roadway Crossings:
- Pedestrians must obey police officer’s directions when they are directing traffic.
- Pedestrians must obey traffic control signals.
- If a pedestrian is at a traffic control location with lights indicating when it is safe to walk, they must wait until the light states it is safe to cross.
- Whenever there is a “Walk” light or walking person symbol, pedestrians facing the light may cross the street in the direction of the light. People should still be cautious, however, because even with a walk signal, there may still be turning vehicles that cross over the crosswalk.
- Whenever the words “Don’t Walk” are illuminated, or if there is an up-raised hand signal, pedestrians must wait on the sidewalk, edge of the road, or in the traffic island until a signal indicates it is safe to cross.
- If you begin to cross a street, and the signal indicates not to walk, you should go to the nearest sidewalk or safety island.
- Suppose a pedestrian is at a traffic light that doesn’t have a specific pedestrian walking sign. In that case, pedestrians should face the signal and then cross the roadway in the marked crosswalk in the direction of the green light.
- Pedestrians should cross a roadway in the right half of the crosswalk when possible.
- Pedestrians should always cross a roadway within the limits of a marked crosswalk if one is available.
- Pedestrians must yield the right of way to emergency vehicles and funeral or other processions.
Pedestrian Rules When There Are No Crosswalks:
- If there is no marked crosswalk, pedestrians must yield the right of way to all vehicles on the roadway.
- If there is a pedestrian tunnel or overpass, pedestrians must cross the street using the tunnel or overpass.
- Pedestrians must not run into the path of a vehicle from the sidewalk or safety island, making it impossible for a driver to stop to yield the right of way to the pedestrian.
- When there is a sidewalk open to use, pedestrians must not walk along or on the road.
- When there is no sidewalk on an undivided roadway, people should walk on the shoulder on the left side of the road to face oncoming traffic.
- When there is no sidewalk on a divided street, pedestrians should walk on the right side of the road on the shoulder.
- Pedestrians cannot enter or stay on a bridge after a bridge signal is given or after a gate, or barrier is lowered.
Do Pedestrians have the right of way in Massachusetts?
Pedestrians always have the right-of-way at an unmarked crosswalk in an intersection, according to state law. If the unmarked crosswalk is in the middle of a residential street (not at an intersection), pedestrians must yield to any oncoming traffic and cars.
When a person is at an unmarked intersection or is at an unmarked crosswalk, they have the responsibility of stepping into traffic only if it is safe.
Pedestrians do not always have the right of way in a marked crosswalk. This rule is surprising to many people, and means that pedestrians are often at the greatest risk in a marked crosswalk. Pedestrians should be extra careful in marked crosswalks. An issue is that many pedestrians may just assume they have the right-of-way in a marked crosswalk, and they may step into the crosswalk without actually looking to ensure it is safe.
If the person walking or jogging does not have a walk signal or green light, they need to yield to traffic. A pedestrian should only cross a marked crosswalk when the walk signal indicates it is safe to walk across the street.
Marked crosswalks can also be more dangerous to walkers and joggers because drivers will typically assume they have the right-of-way at the intersection if there is no active walk signal. But drivers should yield to pedestrians even without an active walk sign or crosswalk lights.
Can you get a ticket for Jaywalking in Boston?
Yes, you can get a ticket for jaywalking in Boston. If you get a ticket for jaywalking, you must either pay the ticket or appear in court within 21 days.
The “good news” about jaywalking tickets is they won’t exactly break the bank. Your first, second, and third offense will cost you $1. Your fourth, or any additional violation, will cost $2.
Even though the tickets are inexpensive, we don’t recommend jaywalking. It can be dangerous, and crossing the street in the safest way possible is always important to protect yourself.
Important Safety Tips for Pedestrians in Massachusetts
Being injured as a pedestrian can happen to anyone. Of all traffic-related pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. in 2012, the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHTSA )found 73% occurred in an urban setting, 70% happened at non-intersections, and 89% happened on clear or cloudy days. While more common in urban settings, the data shows that pedestrian accidents can happen anywhere, regardless of the weather.
Ways You Can Stay Safe When Walking, Jogging, or Using Massachusetts Sidewalks and Streets as a Pedestrian:
Use Sidewalks: Whenever available, use the sidewalks. Sidewalks were designed to be safe areas for walkers, joggers, rollerbladers, etc. Sidewalks help keep you a safer distance from car and motorcycle traffic, and curbs help provide a barrier from the road.
Know the Signs: Learn the traffic and crosswalk light signs and signals, and always look for the safest walking zones (marked crosswalks).
Use Crosswalks: When crossing the street, use a marked crosswalk whenever it is available. Crosswalks are designed to catch drivers’ attention and make them more aware of the possibility that people will cross the street in that area.
If There is No Crosswalk: Make sure you cross the street in an area where you can see traffic coming from both directions. Especially if you enter the road from between two parked cars, be extra cautious, as drivers won’t be able to see you until you are in the roadway. Avoid crossing the street at a bend in the road or where there is anything that prevents you from seeing oncoming traffic, as this means drivers won’t be able to see you when they come around the bend.
Look Both Ways: Before you cross any street, even if it is a marked crosswalk, stop at the curb and look both ways for traffic. If vehicles are approaching, let them pass, and then recheck both directions of traffic.
Make Eye Contact: If any driver stops or moves slowly as you plan to cross the road, make eye contact to be sure they see you.
When Drivers Stop to Let You Cross the Street: Make eye contact with the driver to ensure they are stopping for you and not for another reason. Walk across the front of the vehicle, but then pause to look left and right again to make sure another car did not pull around to pass the stopped car or that a vehicle isn’t coming from the opposite direction.
Walk Defensively: When you cross, walk straight across the road without delay. No need to run, but focus on crossing the street.
Stop Running: If you are running and approach a street to cross, stop running for a moment to do a safety check and make sure it is safe to cross the street before you enter the intersection.
Beware at Bus Stops: MassDOT discovered a correlation between pedestrian accidents and public transit. About 41% of crashes involving a car and a walker, jogger, or runner happened within 300 feet of a bus stop statewide. In the Boston-area specifically, about 50% of car crashes with walkers, joggers, and runners happened within 300 feet of an MBTA bus stop.
Dangers of Drinking or Using Drugs and Walking Close to Roads: While drunk driving is a serious problem, pedestrians who drink alcohol and travel by foot are also at a higher risk of danger and injury. About 25% of walkers hospitalized between 2017 and 2022 with injuries after being hit by cars were impaired by alcohol or drug use. Drinking and drugs make walkers vulnerable to accidents because of slowed reflexes, impaired judgment, poor balance, and misjudged distances.
Massachusetts Laws on Drivers Hitting a Pedestrian in a Crosswalk
A number of laws apply to drivers when it comes to keeping walkers, joggers, and other road users safe. Drivers of all vehicles must yield, slow, or stop their vehicle for pedestrians in crosswalks on their half of the road. Even if the traffic signal favors a driver, drivers must not enter marked crosswalks when pedestrians are crossing.
Drivers must always yield the right of way to pedestrians crossing the road in a crosswalk where traffic control signals are not in place. Massachusetts’ law requires that drivers slow down and stop entirely if needed.
If a vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk to allow a pedestrian to cross the street, no other driver can pass the stopped vehicle. If someone is in the crosswalk, a driver must wait to continue driving until the person is no longer on the driver’s “half” of the road.
State law requires an investigation whenever a driver injures a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk. The state police department or the local police department will conduct an investigation into the cause of the injury and whether there was a violation of the law. It is possible for drivers who violate the law and injure or kill someone to be charged with a crime.
A recent road safety law in Massachusetts also aims to protect pedestrians and vulnerable road users. All drivers must leave at least four feet of space between them and others when passing anyone on or near the road who is not in a car.
Massachusetts Crosswalk Laws for Drivers
A recent law requires all drivers to keep at least four feet between them and people on the side of the road — such as pedestrians, walkers, joggers, bicyclists, maintenance workers, and more.
The same law allows for drivers to cross the centerline, if they can do so safely, to provide more passing space for a walker, jogger, or cyclist.
A driver can only enter a marked crosswalk while a pedestrian is crossing once there is enough space for the car beyond the crosswalk. This means that you cannot be partially stopped in a crosswalk. If there is not enough space on the other side of the crosswalk for your whole vehicle, you must wait until there is enough space to drive through it.
At intersections with traffic control signals, drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians crossing the street when the sign indicates pedestrians may cross.
At intersections with stop signs, drivers must stop and yield the right of way to pedestrians crossing the street.
Even if there is a crosswalk without a traffic signal or signage, drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk. At all intersections with unmarked crosswalks, drivers must know that pedestrians have the right of way.
If there is an unmarked crosswalk in the middle of a residential street (not at an intersection), drivers technically have the right of way, but drivers should always proceed with caution and err on the side of safety.
Drivers Must Not:
- Block crosswalks
- Fail to slow down for pedestrians on the road
- Fail to stop for blind pedestrians
- Pass a vehicle that stopped for a pedestrian in a crosswalk or the roadway
- Open a car door unless they know it is safe and won’t come into contact with pedestrians, other drivers, or bicyclists.
Consequences of Hitting Someone in a Crosswalk
There are several consequences for drivers who hit someone in a crosswalk. For one, someone is typically severely injured. Your car insurance company will be involved to help pay for the damages and injuries caused to the person you hit. Being involved in a pedestrian accident is a traumatic experience for drivers as well as pedestrians.
Police can also issue drivers traffic tickets if the accident happened because they failed to stop or yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk in Massachusetts. Under state law, a driver may get a fine of up to $200 for not stopping for a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
Tickets like these could also possibly cause an increase in a driver’s car insurance premiums. Getting too many tickets within a specific time frame (even if the tickets are for different reasons) could also result in the suspension of someone’s driver’s license.
If you strike a person in a crosswalk, someone crossing the street, or someone who was along the side of the roadway, there are additional possible consequences. There will likely be some form of investigation, which could result in additional tickets and possibly even criminal charges, depending on the circumstances. Criminal charges could be for reckless driving, driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or violating Massachusetts’ hands-free law by using a cell phone at the time of the accident.
Of course, there are also additional repercussions. If you injure someone, you and your car insurance company will likely be involved in a legal claim, which could result in a lawsuit. The injured person has a right to compensation for their injuries and pain and suffering. In worst-case scenarios, pedestrians can be killed in car accidents. Those cases will also involve drivers and their insurance companies in what is known as a wrongful death lawsuit.
Contact a Pedestrian Injury Attorney for a FREE Consultation if You Were Injured in a Boston or Massachusetts Crosswalk or Roadway
Pedestrian accidents are among the most serious cases we see, as they almost always result in serious injuries or even death. Getting hit by a car while walking or jogging is challenging enough. You have doctor’s visits, possible surgeries, and physical therapy to manage so you can heal.
But navigating the legal process and dealing with insurance companies doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful.
If you or a loved one were injured as a pedestrian in Massachusetts, you have rights and may be able to get compensation for your medical bills, time lost from work, pain and suffering, and more. Drivers and pedestrians alike need to know their rights when it comes to pedestrian incidents. Our pedestrian accident attorneys are here to guide you every step of the way.
Over the last three decades, we’ve helped thousands of people in Massachusetts get the recovery they need after a pedestrian or car accident injury. Recently, Boston Magazine named Attorney Spada one of Boston’s Top Personal Injury Lawyers. As personal injury lawyers, you never pay us a penny until we win your case. We’re here and ready to help.
We have three offices but proudly serve the entire state with the ability to meet with you remotely from the comfort of your own home. Contact us for a free consultation so we can learn more about your pedestrian accident and injuries and see how we can help you get the recovery you deserve after your situation occurs.