Massachusetts residents jaywalk so often that you might think we invented it (we’re looking at you, Boston). But is this commonplace practice merely an unsafe annoyance, or is it actually against the law? Let’s take a deep dive into Massachusetts crosswalk laws to find out.
Massachusetts Right of Way Laws
Massachusetts right of way laws exist so that you always know how to share the road safely, even if there are no signs or signals to guide you. Right of way laws cover pedestrians, intersections, and emergency vehicles. For the purpose of this article, we will only address pedestrian right of way laws.
Massachusetts law states that if a pedestrian is in a crosswalk, vehicles on that half of the road must stop to allow the pedestrian to cross. Additionally, vehicles must stop if the pedestrian is within 10 feet of that half of the road. Vehicles must not pass other vehicles that are yielding to a crossing pedestrian.
If a pedestrian is injured by a motorist in a crosswalk, police officers will investigate the incident and, if appropriate, issue citations or make a criminal complaint against the driver.
Pedestrian Crosswalk Laws
We all know that pedestrians generally have the right of way. However, that doesn’t mean they can cross whenever and wherever they want. Just as drivers have a duty to keep a safe distance from pedestrians, pedestrians must yield to highway traffic and cross only at corners or crosswalks.
Pedestrian Crossing Against the Light
We’ve all been in situations where we’re forced to stop suddenly at a green light to yield to a pedestrian crossing against the light. Maddening as this may be, drivers must stop for pedestrians, even when they are breaking the law. However, the law does not excuse pedestrians from this behavior. Crossing on a red light is not only dangerous, but also illegal.
In a situation where a pedestrian crossing against the light was struck by a car and the pedestrian brought a personal injury suit against the driver, the comparative negligence law might come into play. Although a driver who hits a pedestrian will almost always be partially at fault, the pedestrian’s negligence could reduce the amount of damages they are entitled to.
Is There a Jaywalking Fine?
Although jaywalking is technically against the law, the penalties are so minimal as to make the law virtually unenforceable. Historically, the fine for jaywalking in Massachusetts has been one dollar—you’d have to amass several to equal an iced coffee from Dunkin’. After your fourth offense, the fine doubles to $2.
This assumes you actually receive a jaywalking ticket in the first place. With a fine that low, it probably costs the city more to process your violation than you would pay in fines. However, Massachusetts legislature is considering a bill that would increase jaywalking fines to start at $25 and increase to $75 for repeat offenders.
How to Cross the Street Safely
In addition to following Massachusetts pedestrian laws, you should always employ common sense when crossing streets. This includes:
- Looking both ways before crossing, even at crosswalks with walk signals
- Ensuring drivers can see you by making eye contact, and waiting for them to stop before you cross
- Looking up from your phone while crossing—that text can wait
- Wearing reflective or light-colored clothing when it’s dark
- Being extra vigilant around driveways and parking lots, where crashes are more common
- Never crossing in front of parked cars or other obstacles where drivers won’t be able to see you
Regardless of who has the right of way, it’s always a good idea to be alert and cautious when sharing the road.
Have You Been Injured in a Pedestrian Accident?
Pedestrian accidents can result in very serious injuries, including brain injuries, broken and fractured bones, internal organ injuries, head and spine injuries, and other catastrophic health situations. These types of injuries can leave a person unable to work, or saddled with significant medical bills.
If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident, it’s important to act quickly. Reaching out to an experienced Worcester pedestrian accident attorney as soon as possible after the accident will help you determine if you are able to recover damages with a personal injury lawsuit. The Massachusetts statute of limitations allows only three years from the date of the accident to file suit, but your chances of obtaining full compensation are greatest soon after the accident. To discuss the specifics of your case, contact us today for a free consultation.