Boston Ladder Driver Cited For Red Light Violation While Responding

The driver of a Boston ladder truck that collided with an off-duty Boston police officer last week, has been cited for failing to stop at a red light even though the apparatus was responding to an alarm.

The accident occurred last Tuesday, April 5, 2011 and sent both the police officer, Darrell Vinson, and the driver of the ladder, Francis X. Tierney, to the hospital. The apparatus, Ladder 29, was responding with lights and siren to a vehicle accident at the time.

The Massachusetts State Police conducted the accident investigation and on Friday cited Tierney for not stopping for the red light controlling the intersection where the accident occurred. Massachusetts law allows fire apparatus to proceed through red traffic lights ONLY after first coming to a complete stop.

Here is the language of the statute:

Massachusetts General laws Chapter 89, Section 7B. The driver of a vehicle of a fire, police or recognized protective department and the driver of an ambulance shall be subject to the provisions of any statute, rule, regulation, ordinance or by-law relating to the operation or parking of vehicles, except that a driver of fire apparatus while going to a fire or responding to an alarm, or the driver of a vehicle of a police or recognized protective department or the driver of an ambulance, in an emergency and while in performance of a public duty or while transporting a sick or injured person to a hospital or other destination where professional medical services are available, may drive such vehicle at a speed in excess of the applicable speed limit if he exercises caution and due regard under the circumstances for the safety of persons and property, and may drive such vehicle through an intersection of ways contrary to any traffic signs or signals regulating traffic at such intersection if he first brings such vehicle to a full stop and then proceeds with caution and due regard for the safety of persons and property, unless otherwise directed by a police officer regulating traffic at such intersection. The driver of any such approaching emergency vehicle shall comply with the provisions of section fourteen of chapter ninety when approaching a school bus which has stopped to allow passengers to alight or board from the same, and whose red lamps are flashing.

The law is consistent with NFPA 1500 and best practices, but is unusual in so much as most states do not require the mandatory stop. The case points out the importance of firefighters knowing the law of their state.

For more of the story.  Here is a video about the accident.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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