Massachusetts Crosswalk Laws
Massachusetts’ crosswalk laws are something every roadway user should learn before getting on the road. Misinformation and lack of crosswalk education are what contribute to hundreds of pedestrian and bicyclist collisions each year. As of October 2019, over 1,200 pedestrian accidents have occurred in Massachusetts this year alone.
Pedestrian collisions can cause catastrophic injuries such as broken bones, brain injuries and internal organ damage. Learning the state’s crosswalk laws could help you avoid an accident as a pedestrian or driver.
Do Pedestrians Have the Right-of-Way in Massachusetts?
While the right-of-way favors pedestrians, they do not always have the right to cross the street in Massachusetts. Pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to drivers and bicyclists in certain circumstances. The misconception that pedestrians automatically have the right-of-way has led to many collisions, injuries and deaths over the years. As a pedestrian, do not assume you have the right-of-way. Instead, either walk or yield according to the situation.
- When pedestrians do have the right-of-way: crosswalks with Walk signals, four-way stops at intersections, crosswalks at places other than intersections, pedestrian walkways, while already crossing the street, if 10 feet within the driver’s half of the road, in most school zones and in construction zones.
- When pedestrians do not have the right-of-way: crosswalks at lights with Don’t Walk signals, crosswalks when drivers have the green light, when walking unlawfully on the side of the road, when crossing at someplace other than an intersection (jaywalking), if stepping out into the road at an unsafe time.
Massachusetts General Law Title XIV Chapter 89 Section 11 contains the state’s main crosswalk law. It gives pedestrians the right-of-way at any marked crosswalk that does not have traffic control signals. Failing to stop and yield to pedestrians in these areas could result in a traffic infraction and fine. Passing a vehicle that has stopped to yield to pedestrians at a crosswalk comes with a fine of up to $200.
Is Jaywalking Illegal in Massachusetts?
Jaywalking refers to a pedestrian crossing the street at a point other than a marked or unmarked intersection or crosswalk. Crossing in the middle of a road is dangerous. A resultant crash may not be the driver’s fault or responsibility. It is against the law to jaywalk in Massachusetts, including in large cities such as Boston. The fine for jaywalking, however, is historically low. The fine is just $1 for a first offense. However, state lawmakers are currently trying to pass a bill that would increase the fine to $25 for a first offense and $75 for subsequent infractions.
A small fine is not the only incentive not to jaywalk in Massachusetts. Crossing the street someplace other than an intersection or crosswalk can make your actions as a pedestrian unpredictable to drivers. This could put you at a higher than average risk of getting into a collision. If a driver does strike you, you may be unable to recover compensation for your damages due to your fault for causing the accident. Keep yourself safe by avoiding jaywalking.
Do Cars Have to Stop for Pedestrians?
Cars only have to stop for pedestrians when pedestrians have the right-of-way. This is the case at most crosswalks and intersections with control signals when drivers have red lights. While drivers should always try to stop for pedestrians who cross when they do not have the right-of-way, they may not be liable for resultant collisions if they were too close to the pedestrian to reasonably stop. Stepping off a curb when a car is close enough to constitute a hazard is against the law in Massachusetts. It may be the pedestrian’s fault for leaving the curb when it was unsafe to do so.
Massachusetts is a modified comparative negligence state. A pedestrian accident victim could still recover some compensation even if he or she contributed to the accident. As long as the pedestrian was less than 51% at fault for the crash, he or she could still recover damages. The courts will reduce the plaintiff’s award, however, by his or her percentage of fault. Understanding fault for an accident according to Massachusetts’ crosswalk laws may take help from personal injury attorneys in Boston.