Governor Baker Files Bill Aimed at Improving Road Safety

 by TWIW StaffApril 26, 2021

Governor Charlie Baker filed legislation on Monday, April 26, called “An Act Relative to Improving Safety on the Roads of the Commonwealth.” The legislature must pass the proposal for it to become law.

The legislation includes proposals made by Baker in 2019 and a series of new proposals.

The proposals within the bill include:

Seatbelt Violation becomes a Primary Offense

Law enforcement could stop a motorist when the only infraction is not wearing a seatbelt.

Seatbelt infractions are currently a secondary offense. Law enforcement may only issue a citation for not wearing a seatbelt if the motorist was stopped for another infraction.

Traffic Camera Enforcement Local Option

Municipalities could place red light cameras at intersections. Cameras would be restricted to collecting photographs only upon a violation and only of the vehicle license plates. Violations would include running a red light and making an illegal turn on a red light.

Bicycle Safe Passing

A requirement for a driver to maintain a three foot “safe passing distance” and to travel at a speed that is reasonable and proper when passing a bicyclist or pedestrian when there isn’t any physical separation (such as a protected bike lane or curb). Thirty-six other states have “safe distance” requirements.

Commercial Driver’s License [CDL] Changes

Changes the state’s CDL laws, which include updates to conform to federal law.

Crash Data Reporting

Adds to reporting requirements crash information involving “a vulnerable user,” a term which would include pedestrians, bicyclists, public works or public safety personnel working in the right of way, individuals on farm tractors, and users of other mobility devices such as scooters and in-line skates.

Current law requires drivers to report any crashes resulting in serious bodily injury, death, or property damage in excess of $1000. This reporting on crashes involving vulnerable users will assist municipalities and state transportation entities to identify problem areas or emerging trends.

Side Guards and Additional Mirrors

Creates a requirement that all Commonwealth-owned and operated vehicles over 10,000 pounds to have side guards, convex mirrors and crossover mirrors.

All Commonwealth and municipal contractors would be required to have these devices by January 1, 2024.

Low-Speed Mobility Device Advisory Working Group

Calls for MassDOT to convene an advisory group to recommend a new statutory framework to ensure safe use while encouraging these low-carbon transportation alternatives.

Examples of micro-mobility solutions include electric scooters and bicycles.

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