Right Hook Bicycle Accidents in Massachusetts

A right hook accident occurs when a cyclist traveling on the right side of the road is struck by a driver making a right turn. These are serious, often fatal bicycle accidents. At the same time, these crashes are preventable if drivers properly check the roadway around them and yield to cyclists.

An inattentive driver can cause a right hook accident on any road or intersection, even when there are bike lanes, traffic signals and signs to direct the eye. And any driver can cause a right hook crash. But in Boston and other cities, large truck operators are often negligent. Victims and their families should promptly consult an experienced lawyer to investigate and protect their legal rights.

Statistics on Right Hook Bicycle Accidents

The Minneapolis Vision Zero campaign has reported that many bike crashes happen when drivers fail to yield to a cyclist while making a right or left hand turn. Right hook bicycle accidents accounted for 8 percent of all right turn accidents.

We may learn more about the official data in Massachusetts, as Boston, Somerville and Cambridge move forward with their own Vision Zero campaigns.

Cambridge has analyzed crash data in the past and reported that 32 percent of city bicycle accidents are right hooks (City of Cambridge Bicycle Crash Information).

Massachusetts Law on Right Turns Near Cyclists

While all drivers must yield at intersections, Massachusetts law specifically addresses a driver's responsibility when turning near cyclists. M.G.L. c 90 § 14 provides that, “No person operating a vehicle that overtakes and passes a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall make a right turn at an intersection or driveway unless the turn can be made at a safe distance from the bicyclist at a speed that is reasonable and proper.”

Right Hook Accidents in Boston

In Boston, there has been a strong effort to protect cyclists. Over the past few years, the city has expanded bike lanes at a steady pace, including separated bike lanes in some areas. These put flexiposts, curbing or other objects between cyclists and traffic.

The Boston City Council also approved a landmark truck safety ordinance in 2014, requiring all city-owned and city-contracted trucks be equipped with sideguards, convex mirrors, crossover mirrors and blind-spot awareness decals. The goal was to protect cyclists and pedestrians from being struck, then trapped under a truck's wheels.

Tragedies have continued, despite these efforts. In recent years, cyclists have been hit and killed by trucks turning along Massachusetts Avenue in the Back Bay, near the Longwood Medical Area and Boston Medical Center.

Common Causes of Right Hook Bicycle Accidents

Right hook accidents are distinct from other bike crashes. Many drivers expect to see cyclists in front of them and move in response. However, drivers often cause right hook crashes because they are not watching behind them. They are not fully scanning the intersection.

As the number of bike commuters has risen in the Boston area, so have the number of large trucks, making e-commerce deliveries. It is common for a cyclist and truck driver to travel down the same street alongside each other, without ever seeing each other. The cyclist may ride at a steady pace, while the truck starts and stops at traffic lights. This can turn into tragedy at an intersection or when the truck stops to make a delivery.

At the University of Toronto, researchers conducted a small pilot study which monitored 19 drivers with eye-tracking equipment. Most drivers failed to adequately scan the roadway for cyclists and pedestrians before turning. Specifically, the drivers failed to check the area of the road where cyclists and pedestrians travel. They also failed to make frequent over-the-shoulder-checks.

Drivers have a responsibility to check for cyclists. Failure to yield to a cyclist when turning right can cause traumatic injuries to the cyclist. The driver may be cited and held liable. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises drivers who are turning right to first check to the right and behind for cyclists. Drivers should then come to a full stop and look left, right, left and behind before turning.

Free Legal Consultation From Our Boston Attorneys

Bicycle accidents can cause serious injuries. This is a time when you want to seek immediate medical treatment. You also want to consult an attorney to learn your legal rights.

We invite you to contact the attorneys of Breakstone, White & Gluck for a free legal consultation. Our partners have practiced together since 1992 and we are experienced at representing cyclists who have been injured in Boston, Cambridge and across Massachusetts, helping them obtain medical care and other financial compensation for their recovery and healing. We are located in Center Plaza in Government Center, across the street from the MBTA Green Line and Boston City Hall.

For a free legal consultation, call Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or use our contact form.