There is no law in Massachusetts requiring a pedestrian, when lawfully using the road, to be continuously looking or listening to determine if cars or trucks are approaching.
Breakdown lanes are located on the side of streets and highways and are only supposed to be used by cars, trucks or motorcycles in the event of an emergency. Breakdown lanes are usually clearly marked by a yellow or white strip of paint. Vehicles should only travel in a breakdown lane in the event of an emergency. A car should never enter the breakdown in order to pass a car on the right. A driver should never stop in the breakdown lane in order to make a phone call or take a nap.
Pedestrians are allowed to walk in the breakdown lane along the side of the road. Often times there is no sidewalk and pedestrians have to resort to walking in the breakdown lane, shoulder or even the side of the road.
Massachusetts courts have found that a pedestrian walking on the street at nighttime rather than walking on the sidewalk, may be held to be in the exercise of due care, even where there is no necessity shown for using the street rather than the sidewalk. As a result, a pedestrian walking along the side of the road with his back to approaching traffic isn’t at fault if he or she is hit by a car.
Pedestrians Are Not Required by Law to by Hyper Vigilant
Whether a pedestrian sees a car approaching them, he/she has a right to expect that the driver will exercise some degree of care for the safety of pedestrians. There is no law in Massachusetts requiring a pedestrian, when lawfully using the road, to be continuously looking or listening to determine if cars or trucks are approaching.
Massachusetts Law and Driver’s Responsibilities to Avoid Hitting Pedestrians
However, there are several laws that require driver’s to exercise reasonable care to avoid hitting pedestrians that are walking on the side of the road, shoulder or breakdown lane.
- G.L. c. 89, § 4B—prohibits driving in breakdown lane
- 730 CMR 7.08(9)0— prohibits the unauthorized use of breakdown lane (i.e. using the breakdown lane for anything other than its intended purpose)
A driver would be in violation of the following traffic laws if they entered the breakdown lane in order to pass a vehicle traveling ahead:
- Passing, care in passing another vehicle—730 CMR 7.08(14)
- Improper passing—M.G.L. c. 89, § 1
A driver would be in violation of the following traffic laws if they swerved into the breakdown lane or mistakenly drifted into the breakdown:
- Operating, marked lanes staying within 720 CMR 9.06(1)