Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Let Me Back-up for a Minute...

It seems the issue of backing up onto a state highway has generated a bit of interest. I know the feeling. The subject drove me nuts for a long time.

When I queried the Mass Highway Department and received their reply of not being aware of any such law, or regulation regarding backing up onto a state highway I thought that was it. I had researched the Mass General Laws and found nothing as well.

Today, I received an email from Tom Chamberland. Besides being our Tree Warden, and a ranger for the Army Corp of Engineers, Tom is also one that won't rest until he has an answer. I like that. We are very much alike in that regard.

Here is Tom's email sent to the comment section this morning:

Dear just thinking:

Yes, I know you have moved on from this post however, I knew I was not wrong. So I went to the source, our Police Chief Tom Ford. We are both right. Years Back it was illegal to back out into a state highway,(Chief Ford remembers writing many such tickets) however, when the Great State of Massachusetts decided to "codify" its laws, this one, backing out onto a highway, as well as others were combined into one "driving in an unsafe manner", so today if you back out onto a highway AND cause an accident, you will be ticketed for driving in an unsafe manner.

The email shows great follow through by Tom, and he went to the right source. "Driving in an unsafe manner" is a term that is, unfortunately, completely subjective. It is often used in an appropriate manner, however at times it is the only ammunition available when an officer observes something that is just plain wrong, but doesn't know what statute to use.

Steering an open Jeep with your knees can be observed by an officer and is reason to ticket for driving in an unsafe manner. Driving with a person standing in the bed of a pickup, or on the hood are all obvious unsafe manners in which to drive. Applying make-up while driving, shaving while driving, or using a knife and fork with a snack while driving are the less obvious ones, but are still driving in an unsafe manner.

Backing out of a driveway, or from anyplace, is something that requires paying attention, and patience like all aspects of safe driving. If one backs out into traffic, or pulls out into traffic, and disregards the traffic itself resulting in an accident, then they should be ticketed for "driving in an unsafe manner". However, the actual act of backing out of a driveway is not illegal, and should not be a ticketed offense. Otherwise, everyone with a driveway on Route 131, Route 20, and Route 148 would be operating unsafely if their driveway did not have room for a turn-around.

Tom's email states, " today if you back out onto a highway AND cause an accident, you will be ticketed for driving in an unsafe manner. " The key word here is "AND". If you do anything behind the wheel, not just backing up onto a state road, and cause an accident you should be held accountable. Of course, there are circumstances that may be considered in your favor, such as your brakes suddenly failing on a steep hill, a duck landing on your windshield, or a chipmunk running up your pant leg, but otherwise you are in trouble.

So, if you do plan on backing out of your spot in front of the Blackington Building on Route 20, and you do happen to cause an accident, let's hope you had duck on your windshield or a squirrel in your pants.

In the meantime, someone should clue in Dr. Gill's office, and have them re-word their sign. something like "DANGER. Please Do Not Back-up onto Road. I Am Only licensed to Fix Eyes" would be good.

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