Tag: H3549 Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities

Comment Letter Re: Support for H.3437, An Act requiring backup cameras on certain vehicles

Comment Letter Re: Support for H.3437, An Act requiring backup cameras on certain vehicles

January 18th, 2022

Joint Committee on Transportation
Representative William Straus, Chair

Re: Support for H.3437, An Act requiring backup cameras on certain vehicles

Dear Chairman Straus, Vice Chairs Keenan and Devers, and members of the committee,

Members of the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition respectfully request that the committee report out favorably on H.3437 An Act requiring backup cameras on certain vehicles.

H.3437 An Act requiring backup cameras on certain vehicles would require the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to include regulations around having rear visibility camera systems, or “backup” cameras for motor vehicles over 10,000 pounds that are owned or leased by the commonwealth or a city or town of the commonwealth. As of May 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires all new vehicles to be manufactured with backup cameras. However, this only applies to vehicles under 10,000 pounds, meaning large trucks are not included in this law. These large trucks have significant blind spots¹, making it challenging for drivers to see what is behind them when backing up. Requiring backup cameras could be an important safety measure for preventing backover crashes involving large trucks and vehicles, and protecting vulnerable road users like people walking and biking—particularly children and older adults who are most impacted by these kinds of crashes².

In Massachusetts over the last five years (2017-2021), there have been 33 crashes involving trucks backing up and people walking, resulting in 2 fatalities³. Additionally, two workers at a construction site in Boston were struck and killed when a co-worker backed up a truck and pushed them into a trench in February 2021. While the ownership history of all of these trucks is unknown, we are confident that beginning with state- and municipally-owned vehicles will act as a model for private operators to install video technology; the impact of which will help prevent the needless loss of life of people walking on roadways and sidewalks in Massachusetts.

Implementing these requirements, particularly when paired with other truck safety measures included in H.3549 An Act to reduce traffic fatalities, would make measurable improvements for the safety of vulnerable road users around large trucks.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


The Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition

Cheryl Pavlik, Allston Brighton Health Collaborative
Galen Mook, Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition
Jarred Johnson, TransitMatters
Adam Shutes, WalkUP Roslindale
Becca Wolfson, Boston Cyclists Union
Stacey Beuttell, WalkBoston
Janie Katz-Christy, Green Streets Initiative
Emily Stein, Safe Roads Alliance
Alex Epstein, Somerville Alliance for Safe Streets
Julia Wallerce, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy
Catherine Gleason, LivableStreets Alliance
Josh Ostroff, Transportation for Massachusetts

¹ Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/ourroads/large-blind-spots)
² NHTSA Report on Backover Crashes (https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/811144.pdf)
³ MassDOT IMPACT portal (https://apps.impact.dot.state.ma.us/cdp/home)

Testimony To Joint Committee On Transportation In Support Of An Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities / Against Jaywalking Bill

Testimony To Joint Committee On Transportation In Support Of An Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities / Against Jaywalking Bill

Testimony as prepared for the Joint Committee on Transportation scheduled on Thursday, October 14, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. conducted via Microsoft Teams. To submit written testimony, you can submit it through the committee link above. Online testimony will be accepted until Friday, October 15 at 5:00 PM. Consider sending your testimony to your elected officials as well.

My name is Brendan Kearney, and I’m the Deputy Director of WalkBoston, Massachusetts’ statewide pedestrian advocacy organization, also speaking on behalf of the MA Vision Zero Coalition in support of the concepts behind An Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities bills, but especially bill H3549 filed by Representatives Moran and Representative Straus. We are opposed to H3470, an act to prevent jaywalking. 

We’re also opposed to the sidewalk robot bills: H.3583/S.2308 An Act relative to mobile carrying devices & S.2256/H.3482 An Act relative to personal delivery devices. (Click here to read testimony against similar legislation from 2019.)

H3549 Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities

We believe this bill has many good provisions that will make our streets safer, including: 

  • Side guards and backup cameras for large trucks,
  • Definition of vulnerable road user and 3 foot passing language, 
  • Standardized crash reports,
  • Two fixes to speed limits, including: 
    • Allowing MassDOT to improve the safety of workers in active construction zones by establish speed limits without conducting an engineering study, 
    • Allowing state roads within a city/town that have opted into the 25mph default municipal speed limit to also be changed to match that 25mph limit. 

H3549 does not include language that would require a rear red light AND a rear reflector. Currently the law requires one or the other. Bikes are manufactured with a reflector, and users often add a light. Eliza from the Boston Cyclists’ Union will share more information about the importance of preserving this as an OR statement.  

H3470 An Act to Prevent Jaywalking

We are opposed to this bill, and testified against this similar legislation in 2017. There are a number of pieces within this proposal that are concerning.

This bill does not increase safety – it increases fines. Those fines are increased even more if you have a phone or headphones. This bill would also make crossing outside of a marked crosswalk illegal.

First: Distracted walking is a distraction.

When Toronto was examining a similar ‘distracted walking’ bill a few years ago, the Globe and Mail published an editorial that referenced electronic devices in the hands of walkers were a factor in just 25 of 23,240 pedestrian deaths in the US from 2010-14 (FARS = Fatality Analysis Reporting System). The editorial was titled, “All those pedestrian deaths? It’s the cars, stupid.”

Second: making it illegal to cross outside of a crosswalk is not realistic. 

It is legal to cross anywhere outside of a marked crosswalk if you are at least 300ft from a crosswalk or signalized intersection. That is a reflection of how we all use our streets and how our communities are designed. 

For example: I live in Framingham on Central Street. There is a sidewalk on one side of the street – on the side opposite our house. I cross when there are no drivers coming, or when someone yields for me. It is at least a mile between the crosswalks on our street. It would be unsafe to try and walk on the narrow 30 mph street with traffic to my back to try and get to the nearest crosswalk ¼ of a mile down the street – an act which in itself would be technically against the law: if there is a sidewalk present along a street, I’m supposed to walk on it. If there wasn’t a sidewalk, the law says I should walk against traffic.

This is not an extreme example – that is literally the view from my front door, and that’s the reality of many of our municipalities across Massachusetts. The term jaywalking was created by the auto industry in the 1920s to shift blame away from drivers who were hitting and killing people. 100 years later it has proven to be one of the most successful propaganda and marketing efforts of all time. 

Finally, there are real equity concerns around jaywalking laws.

Jaywalking laws have been found to lead to biased enforcement. Other places across the country, like Virginia, are working toward decriminalizing jaywalking. ProPublica released a series “Walking While Black” a few years ago that found black people in Jacksonville, Florida were 3x as likely to be stopped and cited as white people. Similar patterns have been seen in many other places; Streetsblog reported last year that 89% of people issued jaywalk citations in New York were Black and brown

This Friday at 2pm, the national organization America Walks is holding a webinar entitled “How to Take on Harmful Jaywalking Laws.” The host and moderator is Charles T. Brown from Equitable Cities, an award-winning expert in planning and policy. I’m happy to share the link to Friday’s America Walks webinar via email with the committee afterwards. 

Since I’ve talked at length, I will share our concerns with the sidewalk robot bills in a letter to the committee afterwards. (Testimony against similar legislation from 2019.) In brief: We believe these types of vehicles belong in the street, and not sharing already constrained sidewalks. 

Thank you for your time.