Posted On: August 25, 2009

Maryland Highway Traffic Accidents Alert: Loading up for Back to College

We started seeing them around the middle of August: Pickup trucks with open flatbeds overflowing with randomly packed furniture (often an old couch poised precariously). Vehicles with luggage, boxes, and all sorts of things loosely strapped to roof racks and flapping in the breeze. Pieces of all of the above on the side of the highway -- and sometimes in the roadway itself.

Then, there are the cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs that go whizzing past you with the backseats, hatchbacks, and passenger compartments filled above the window tops with stuff. It's amazing there's any room for the driver.

It's the start of the annual back-to-school pilgrimage made by students attending college or university in Baltimore, Maryland and across the mid-Atlantic. And you don't have to be a Maryland car accident attorney to know an accident waiting to happen when you see it. The fact of the matter is poorly secured loads on the outside of vehicles, as well as unsecured cargo inside the car, are a real hazard to motorists on our nation's highways.

Unsecured Cargo and Auto Accidents
Poorly secured items on the exterior of the vehicle may suddenly break loose, becoming projectiles on the highway, potentially causing a fatal car crash. These hastily done packing and tie-down jobs can also cause accidents after the fact, when items that have fallen from a truck bed or roof rack land in the road and become road debris, and are struck by an unsuspecting motorist, who then looses control of their vehicle.

Likewise, anything in the cargo or passenger area of a car, if not secured, can become a dangerous projectile that could hurt the car driver or passengers in a serious car accident. Research findings presented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at the University of Baltimore in 2004 showed that even seemingly harmless objects such as text books can cause personal injury or death when a serious car accident occurs. NHTSA writes:

Unsecured cargo is also a potential injury source - e.g. text books, portable DVD players, golf clubs, softball equipment, water heaters, laptops, bowling balls, etc. (NHTSA, Crash Assessment for Field Triage “Rules and Exceptions”, Nov. 4, 2004)

So when you or your kids pack up for college, please take special care and make sure everything is secure on the inside and outside of your vehicle -- for the sake of the driver, his or her passengers, and the lives of the other motorists sharing Maryland's highways.

Related Web Resource
NHTSA, Crash Assessment for Field Triage, “Rules and Exceptions”, Nov. 4, 2004

Posted On: August 18, 2009

Swimming Champ Phelps Hit in Baltimore Car Accident; Other Driver Cited

A 28-year-old woman driver faces charges of running a red light in a Baltimore, Maryland traffic accident last Thursday involving Olympic gold medal swimming champion Michael Phelps. According to the Baltimore Sun, the accident occurred Thurs. Aug. 13 around 9 p.m. at East Biddle and North Calvert Sts. The woman, driving a Honda Accord, allegedly ran a red traffic light, striking a Cadillac Escalade driven by Phelps.

The woman suffered slight personal injury in the Baltimore traffic accident and was treated for neck and shoulder injuries at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. She must have been even more embarrassed when she learned that she struck the vehicle of one of the world's most famous Olympic athletes.

Phelps and his three passengers were not injured, though the driver's side airbag deployed and the front of his Escalade was damaged. Phelps was raised in Rodgers Forge, Baltimore County, and now lives in a condominium in the Baltimore waterfront neighborhood Fell's Point. The Baltimore Police Department told the Sun that Phelps presented an invalid Michigan driver's license to officers. Phelps was given a $40 citation and will need to appear in court. He also told police that he had one beer an hour before the accident. No Breathalyzer test was given. A car or truck accident with an outsized SUV like Phelps' Cadillac Escalade could have been a lot worse. Luckily no one was seriously hurt in this traffic accident involving a driver running a red light.

Aggressive Driving: Running Red Light Traffic Accident Statistics
Baltimore injury lawyers like us know that running a red light can result in serious injury and fatalities for the drivers and passengers of the vehicles involved, as well as for innocent pedestrians involved in such careless traffic accidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) considers "running red lights" to be a most dangerous form of aggressive driving: In 1998, NHTSA estimated that motorists running red lights caused some 89,000 crashes across the country, resulting in 80,000 injuries and 986 fatalities. NHTSA says that running a red light is the number-one cause of traffic accidents in urban areas. (NHTSA Traffic Safety Digest, REGION I New England Stop Red Light Running Workshop; see link below to the Federal Highway Administration's Stop Red Light Running Program.) This Baltimore crash involving Mr. Phelps is now part of those red-light running traffic accident statistics. Fortunately everyone survived, this time.

Woman to be cited in Phelps accident
Driver of other car to face charge of running red light Aug. 15, 2009

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps involved in car accident in Baltimore, Maryland
Associated Press, NY Daily News Aug. 14, 2009

Related Web Resources

Stop Red Light Running Program

Michael Phelps, U.S.A. Olympic Swimming Team

Fell's Point, Baltimore

Posted On: August 12, 2009

Maryland On Foot: Avoid Pedestrian Accidents with These Safety Tips

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), of the 614 Maryland car accident deaths that occurred in 2007, pedestrian deaths numbered at 116. That's 116 people who died trying to get to where they were going on foot -- whether it was to school, to work, to the store, to walk the dog, or to visit a neighbor or friend. Maybe some were just trying to get home. They didn't make it.

For the same year (2007), across the U.S., 4,654 pedestrians died and an estimated 70,000 or more were injured in motor-vehicle related pedestrian accidents. (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts: Maryland 2003-2007)

As experienced Maryland pedestrian accident lawyers, we know what can happen when walkers find themselves in the wrong place, at the wrong time -- in the path of an oncoming vehicle.

We've seen many different circumstances where car, motorcycle, SUV, and truck accidents turned even more tragic when people on foot got critically injured or killed in Maryland traffic mishaps. NHTSA recommends many of the same "common sense" methods our mothers taught us for keeping safe when traveling on foot:

1. Cross at intersections. Most people who are hit by cars are struck when they are not in a crosswalk. Some municipalities will fine drivers who fail to stop for and give right of way to pedestrians in a crosswalk.

2. Use crossing signals. They're there for a reason. A stop light can be your best defense against being struck by a motorist who is on their cell phone with the stereo blaring, tearing down the road after a nerve-wracking day at work.

3. Look left, right, AND left again. THEN cross. Remember what mom said about looking both ways? Do it, then look left again before setting foot into the roadway. Motorists are in a terrible hurry these days. In a split second, particularly if you're crossing a curved road, a car can be fast upon you on the left -- a driver that doesn't expect to see a pedestrian in the road.

4. Make eye contact with drivers. Even drivers stopped at a stop light or stop sign. Some drivers who are not paying attention may try to make a right-hand turn after you've entered the crosswalk. There's also the problem of motorists running yellow lights or making "rolling stops" and going through stop signs. A crosswalk will not save your life if the driver still doesn't know you're there. Making eye contact is a smart safety measure.

5. Wear light-colored clothing. Have you ever had to slam on your brakes because you were driving at night, and suddenly a pedestrian appeared seemingly out of nowhere? Don't assume drivers can see you at night, even on city streets. Carry a flashlight if you have to walk on rural, poorly lit roads.

NHTSA reports that in 2007, most traffic-related pedestrian fatalities took place in urban areas (73%), in normal weather conditions (90%), at night (67%), and where people were not crossing in intersections (77%). Most victims were male. (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2007 Data: Pedestrians) Children and the elderly are particularly at-risk populations for traffic pedestrian accidents -- topics we will cover in future blog entries.

Remember, even better than "walking away from an accident" is avoiding one in the first place. That's true for pedestrians as well as motorists.

NHTSA Pedestrian Safety Portal

Related Web Resources

Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee

Posted On: August 4, 2009

Maryland Distracted Driving Alert: Texting Ups Car Accident Risk Significantly

Have you ever traveled on the Baltimore Beltway or another Maryland roadway and noticed your fellow drivers engaging in activities other than steering the 4,000-pound SUV beneath them? Car crashes caused by drivers reading the newspaper, fiddling with the stereo, putting on makeup, and chatting on cell phones -- only to lose control of their vehicles or miss a road obstacle and crash -- are sadly, nothing new.

Now we traffic-frazzled Maryland commuters can add texting to the list of distracted-driving activities that can cause serious car, SUV, motorcycle and truck accidents. Highways aren't the only places texting poses a risk -- a teenager texting a friend while driving down their quiet neighborhood street could cause a fatal car pedestrian accident.

A recent study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded that texting (i.e., typing and sending messages on a cell phone or wireless hand-held device) while driving is even more dangerous that previously thought, and that texting has indeed become the most dangerous of all distracted-driving activities.

Maryland traffic accident lawyers like us see the worst of what happens on the state's highways and roadways. We know too well that even normally good drivers can cause a car, truck, or motorcycle accident by being distracted, even for an instant. Some states, such as Virginia, have banned texting while driving.

Though the Virginia Tech study focused on long-haul trucks (outfitted with video cameras for research purposes), they believe their findings apply to all drivers -- not just commercial truck drivers. Over 18 months, the video cams recorded that in the moments before a crash or near-miss traffic accident, the truck drivers looked down at their texting devices for nearly 5 seconds -- enough time at highway speeds to cover the length of a football field. We've said it before, and it's worth repeating: Drive carefully out there. Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road -- and your fellow drivers.

Texting Raises Crash Risk 23 Times, Study Finds
The New York Times in Yahoo! Finance July 28, 2009

Related Web Resource

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute