- Massachusetts Department of Transportation
- MAPFRE Insurance
Temperatures are rising and so are the spirits of many Massachusetts residents who are eager to get out and enjoy the longer days ahead. April brings more than just showers, and hopefully sunshine this year, as MassDOT and MAPFRE Insurance remind you of two important safety campaigns you should be aware of this month.
Wednesday, April 7th is National Walking Day
Wednesday, April 7th is National Walking Day, a day sponsored by the American Heart Association that reminds people about the health benefits of taking a walk, and encourages all to go for a 30-minute stroll on this day. Grab your sneakers, bring a friend, don’t forget the water and be sure to use the hashtag #NationalWalkingDay on social media. As this national campaign approaches, along with the warmer weather, it’s important to keep pedestrian safety in mind, both on foot and while behind the wheel.
At some point in the day, everyone is a pedestrian, and unfortunately pedestrian fatalities remain high. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2019 alone, over 6,000 pedestrians were killed in traffic incidents. That is equivalent to there being a pedestrian death every 85 minutes. If you are walking in your community near traffic, keep the following tips, offered by NHTSA, in mind:
- Be predictable by following the rules of the road and obey signs and signals. Whenever possible, cross streets at crosswalks or intersections where drivers expect pedestrians.
- Walk on sidewalks whenever they are available. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible.
- Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach to make sure you are seen.
- Be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night.
- Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways, or backing up in parking lots.
When behind the wheel, look out for pedestrians everywhere, at all times and use extra caution when driving in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or bad weather. Remember to slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk. You should never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk since there may be people crossing that you can’t see. Always follow the speed limit, especially around people on the street, and pay attention to slower speeds in school zones and neighborhoods.
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness month
One of the main causes of traffic incidents for both motorists and pedestrians is distraction, whether it be from an electronic device or cell phone, changing the radio, or other passengers in the car. April is also known as National Distracted Driving Awareness month. This campaign effort focuses on ways to change the behavior of drivers through legislation, enforcement, public awareness, and education.
Distracted driving is an especially problematic trend among younger drivers since 8% of drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the fatal crashes. If you are a parent of a new teen driver, make sure they are aware of the dangers of distracted driving. Educate them on the laws in place and create a contract that prohibits them from using a cell phone, having extra passengers, and ensures that they take extra safety precautions behind the wheel. Teens learn by example, so be sure you are following the rules of the road as well, and put down the distractions.
Even the safest of drivers can find themselves in need of assistance, which is why the MassDOT Highway Assistance Program sponsored by MAPFRE Insurance is here to help with fixing minor mechanical problems, flat tires, fuel shortages, and emergency situations. The Highway Assistance Program drivers monitor some of the state’s busiest highways and turnpikes around Metro Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Cape Cod (seasonal). The Highway Assistance Patrol covers 13 major state roadways and interstates, the Emergency Service Patrol covers the Mass Pike (I-90) from New York to Boston and the Incident Response Operators cover the Metropolitan Highway System and tunnels. The Highway Assistance Patrol is in service Monday–Friday between the hours of 6 a.m.–10 a.m. and 3 p.m.–7 p.m. During holidays, there are extended routes in heavy traffic areas. On I-90, and in Boston’s tunnel system, assistance is provided 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.
Patrick McDonald, CPCU
CEO, Northeast Region