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Failure to Obey Traffic Signals Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

Intersections are dangerous places for motorcyclists. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates half of all fatal, multiple-vehicle motorcycle accidents – whether on interstate or non-interstate roads – occur at intersections.

Boston motorcycle accident attorneys at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman know that a significant number of these crashes happen because of a failure to obey traffic signals – particularly on the part of the other vehicle.

In one eight-year analysis of fatal motor vehicle crashes and deaths at intersections, the NHTSA concluded:

  • One-fifth of all fatal traffic crashes occurred at intersections;
  • Of all deadly intersection crashes, one-third happened at intersections controlled by traffic signals, one-third at intersections with stop signs and one-third at intersections with no traffic control devise;
  • Of those deaths at intersections controlled by traffic signals, nearly 85 percent happened on urban roads;
  • More than half of all two-vehicle crashes that occurred at intersections controlled by traffic signals were attributed to a failure-to-obey violation. Another 30 percent were failure-to-yield.
Causes of Failure to Obey Traffic Signals

Failure to obey differs from failure to yield in that the former is typically a red-light-running violation. Failure to yield means the driver failed to yield the right-of-way to another motorist, typically while turning left or exiting a parking lot or private driveway.

Fact ors cited in failure-to-obey crashes:

  • 20 percent were legally intoxicated;
  • 16 percent were cited for speeding;
  • 17 percent had an invalid driver’s license;
  • 12 percent were cited for inattention/ distraction/ drowsiness.

Traffic signals are the lights that control the movement of vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians at intersections.

Understanding Traffic Signals

MGL ch. 89 section 9 and MGL ch. 90 section 8 address both failure to yield and failure to obey traffic signals. To understand how we evaluate liability in motorcycle crashes at intersections, we first need to break down driver responsibilities at these signals. The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles explains it as follows:

  • Steady red light. Stop. Do not go until the light turns green. Right turns can be made only after coming to a complete stop and yielding for pedestrians or other vehicles in the path. No right turns are permitted where there is a No Turn on Red sign posted.
  • Steady red arrow . Same as the red but applies only to vehicles going in the direction of the arrow.
  • Flashing red light. Same as a Stop sign. Come to a complete stop. Obey right-of-way laws. Proceed only when it’s safe. At white crosswalk lines, stop before the line. Don’t enter the intersection until you first come to a complete stop.
  • Steady yellow. The light is changing from green to red. You must stop if it’s safe. If you’re already stopped when the yellow light turns, you may not proceed.
  • Flashing yellow. Warning. Proceed with caution and stay alert.
  • Flashing yellow arrow. Allows a left turn when oncoming traffic has a green light. Only proceed if traffic is clear.
  • Steady green. Go. But first, yield to other vehicles, bicycles or pedestrians in the road. Make sure there is enough room to make it completely through the intersection. Never block the intersection.

If a traffic signal isn’t working, motorists should treat it like a four-way stop.

A stop sign requires each approaching motorist to stop before the crosswalk or pavement stop line, yield to pedestrians or other vehicles and proceed carefully. Simply slowing down isn’t enough. At yield signs, motorists should be prepared to stop and allow vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians with the right-of-way to go before proceeding.

Liability in Motorcycle Intersection Crashes

Many motorcycle accidents at intersections involve more than two vehicles. That can make it complicated to ascertain who was at-fault and to what extent, and whether there may be issues of comparative fault (shared blame on the part of the plaintiff). Having an experienced motorcycle injury lawyer is imperative to effectively challenge assertions of comparative fault.

Often in cases with severe injuries, we will need to rely on accident reconstructionist and other experts to help prove fault and liability.

There are circumstances in motorcycle accidents at intersections wherein 211 CMR 74.00 deems certain parties presumably more than 50 percent at-fault for a crash. These include:

  • Failure to proceed with due caution from a traffic control signal or sign. An operator who fails to obey a traffic control signal or sign or fails to proceed with due caution from a traffic control signal or sign and thereafter collides with another vehicle is deemed more than 50 percent at fault.
  • At uncontrolled intersections, at-fault operators are presumed to be those who enter the main road, those who enter from the left while failing to allow the vehicle on the right to proceed (when they enter at the same time) or those who enter later than the other vehicle.
  • Operators who turn left or make a U-turn across the travel path of a vehicle traveling in the same or opposite direction are presumed at-fault.
  • Operators who are coming from a roadway that terminates onto a throughway (a “T” intersection), and thereafter collide with another vehicle traveling on that throughway, are presumed at-fault.

That presumption can be refuted with evidence, but the burden of proof shifts from the plaintiff to the defendant, meaning the defendant will have an uphill battle.

Proving Negligence in Failure to Obey Traffic Signal Cases

That presumption will make it easier to prove negligence, but it does not necessarily mean the case is won.

Negligence, as outlined in Jury Instruction 3.180, is the failure to use a degree of care a reasonably prudent person would exercise under similar circumstances.

We must establish that defendant owed a reasonable duty of care. We must also prove a breach of this duty, which is established by providing proof of the facts as alleged. We must also establish causation and that this breach of duty proximately caused the stated injuries to the plaintiff (as opposed to there being some other causal factor).

Finally, we must prove the damages. Primarily, this will be “special damages,” or those that are awarded to cover expenses directly incurred by the crash, such as lost wages, medical bills and pain and suffering.

If you are injured in a Boston motorcycle accident by another motorist who failed to obey a traffic signal, we can review the facts and circumstances of your case and help determine the best course of action.

Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation
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