By Chief Steven J. Wojna
Dudley Police Department
Recently, I was contacted by a local member of the 4H Club advising me of an important subject. When the weather improves, horses and other livestock will be walked or ridden along the roads. These animals may also get loose from time to time. With active 4H members in our area, there is a greater chance of drivers encountering these animals along the roads. Since some drivers may not have experienced this situation before, it is important for everyone to be aware of the rules they must observe when approaching livestock. I wanted to take this opportunity to provide the readers with some information.
Due to Dudley’s rural nature, horses, cows, and other livestock are kept in various parts of town. These animals can be found on the road from time to time. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 14 provides the guide for drivers to observe when encountering these animals. It states in part, “Every person operating a motor vehicle shall bring the vehicle and the motor propelling it immediately to a stop when approaching a cow, horse or other draft animal being led, ridden or driven, if such animal appears to be frightened and if the person in charge thereof shall signal so to do; and, if traveling in the opposite direction to that in which such animal is proceeding, said vehicle shall remain stationary so long as may be reasonable to allow such animal to pass; or, if traveling in the same direction, the person operating shall use reasonable caution in thereafter passing such animal.” Drivers are required to stop and/or shut off their motor if the animal appears frightened. It may also be necessary to stop and allow the animal to pass by your location in order to insure the move is done safely. Passing must also be performed with “reasonable caution.” The Penalty for violating this section is a civil traffic fine.
These animals can be out on the roads either on purpose or by wandering out on their own. It is important to note, similar to pedestrians; these animals have been around much longer than motor vehicles. Therefore, the laws will favor the animal and the people in charge of them in most cases when it comes to an accident. Encounters of this nature can be rare and often unexpected. Please do our local 4H members and others a favor by exercising caution in these circumstances to avoid serious accidents and injuries.