Posted On: December 27, 2010

Maryland Elderly Drivers More Apt to Be Killed in Traffic Accidents, AAA Reports

When was the last time you had a heart-to-heart talk with an elderly parent or grandparent about their driving abilities? As uncomfortable as that might be, it could be a life saver. A Baltimore news source reported that the AAA found that on average, more than one Maryland senior citizen is killed weekly in an auto accident. One a week.

That statistic might be surprising to some. However Baltimore traffic accident injury lawyers know what can happen when elder drivers lose their ability to safely helm an automobile on Maryland roads, highways, and city streets.

Too often, we hear a Baltimore, Maryland area news story about a senior citizen who lost control of their vehicle and caused a serious or fatal pedestrian accident or car crash. The AAA urges families to have those frank discussions about when it's time for seniors to stop driving. Other factors to consider for senior driving safety:

  • Some states such as Illinois and New Hampshire have begun to pass laws requiring seniors to be retested (e.g., at age 75) before they can renew their driver's licenses. Maryland law states that age alone may not be considered justification for reexamination, though the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) conducts vision testing over age 40.

  • Seniors may show warning signs that their driving ability is no longer up to snuff -- such as excessively slow driving, near-misses or minor traffic accidents, or confusion behind the wheel.

  • Medical doctors may talk to their elderly patients if they find their eyesight, cognitive abilities, and/or reflexes may no longer be adequate to safely drive a car. Medications may also have an effect on senior drivers' ability to react to weather conditions and road obstacles.

  • Law enforcement officials in some Maryland counties may receive training in how to recognize Alzheimer's or dementia symptoms in elderly drivers who commit driving infractions.

  • Seniors should choose vehicles that meet their needs for comfort, operation of controls, and field of vision within the car (e.g., power mirrors and windows, adjustable foot pedals and steering wheels, seats with lumbar support, dash controls with large buttons), as well as road safety features (e.g., anti-lock brakes, dual airbags, stability control).

The ability to drive to the store, to appointments, or to visit family and friends is among the freedoms that seniors enjoy. Along with moving into a retirement community or nursing home, giving up the keys is a big step for any aging person. With no laws on the books in Maryland on retesting senior drivers, it's up to families to help decide when it's time for mom or dad to put the car in park for good--and rely on others for transportation.

AAA To Hold Elderly Driver Awareness Week
CBS Baltimore.com Dec. 5, 2010

Related Web Resources

AAA: Mature Drivers

Mid-Atlantic AAA

Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration

Posted On: December 20, 2010

Maryland on List of States for Ford Windstar Minivan Safety Recall : Failed Axle to Blame in Deadly Vehicle Accident

This past August, Ford Motor Company and the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) issued a safety recall for the Windstar minivan. Windstar model years 1998-2003 manufactured and sold in Canada and several cold-weather states -- Maryland included -- are at risk for axle cracking, corrosion and failure, which could lead to serious and even fatal auto accidents.

Ford stated that Windstar minivans sold, owned and operated in snow belt states like Maryland are at greater risk for axle corrosion and failure, due to rock salt used to treat slippery roads. As anyone who's driven on Baltimore County, Maryland roads on bad winter days knows -- the rock salt and sanding truck is a welcomed sight. But that salt can accelerate rust and corrosion on the undercarriage of a motor vehicle, which is the problem Ford describes on Windstars manufactured with "heat-treated axles." The initial recall of more than half a million Ford Windstar minivans has been expanded by several thousand, bring the total number recalled to 612,000.

Baltimore County auto accident injury lawyers stay current on automotive safety recalls such as this one from Ford. Experienced Maryland traffic injury attorneys are aware of laws surrounding automotive product liability and consumer protection. If you live in Maryland and drive an older Ford Windstar minivan, you'd best contact your local Ford dealer and get the vehicle inspected, to avoid a possible traffic accident.

The news of the expanded Ford recall comes as a bereaved Mass. family speaks out about a fatal traffic accident with their Windstar minivan. The Boston-area family reportedly received their Ford recall notice just days after their husband and father was in a fatal crash with his Windstar minivan. The minivan's rear axle reportedly snapped, sending the vehicle out of control and into the side of a building, killing the young male driver.

NHTSA has reportedly received 950 consumer complaints regarding the Ford Windstar axle issue, as of September.

Ford Expands Windstar Minivan Recall By 37,000 Units
DailyFinance Dec. 16, 2010

Minivan Recall Grows As Victim's Family Speaks Out
Associated Press on NPR.org Dec. 16, 2010

Recall Alert: 1998-2003 Ford Windstar
Cars.com Aug. 27, 2010

Posted On: December 14, 2010

Maryland Farm Vehicle and Auto Accident Prevention: Do State Regulations Go Far Enough?

A national study on the safety hazards of farm equipment driving on public roads reveals what experienced Baltimore County, Maryland injury attorneys know very well:

Urban drivers sharing narrow, winding back roads with slow-moving tractors, combines, and other agricultural vehicles can be a dangerous, deadly combination.

It's a serious driving safety problem in rural Maryland counties (such as Carroll County and Harford County) and other farming communities across the U.S. More and more urban commuters are moving to the country -- bringing more cars, more traffic, and more hurried driving with them. At the same time, state laws written in the early 20th century have not kept pace with the capabilities of modern farm equipment, passenger cars, nor changes in U.S. driving habits.

A report featured in the National Agricultural Safety Database (NASD) documents the problems associated with farm equipment and motor vehicle accidents on public roads and highways, which include the following:

  • State vehicle codes regarding the lighting and marking of agricultural equipment on the roadways may vary from state to state (e.g., Maryland requires 2 headlights on tractors and self-propelled agricultural vehicles, where Delaware and Ohio only require 1).

  • Tractors used to chug along at 25 mph or slower; newer tractors can reach speeds of up to 45 mph.

  • States are inconsistent in how they handle young operators of agricultural equipment on public roads.

  • State regulations do not always embrace the national Uniform Vehicle Code guidelines related to farm equipment lighting, marking, and operation on roadways and highways.

The study authors recommend additional research into the complex problem of car accidents involving farm vehicles. In addition, they suggest ways to modernize related farm equipment roadway operation regulations and policies, as well as beef up law enforcement and driver safety education and awareness programs -- to make our nation's back roads safer for both agricultural vehicles and automobile drivers. (Related issue in the U.S. and here in Maryland: auto accidents with farm livestock in the roadways.)

Source:

Agricultural Equipment on Public Roads
Committee on Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension. USDA-CSREES, Washington, DC, 2009

Section 3.0: Federal and State Regulations

Section 6.0: Suggestions for the Future

Related Maryland Injury Attorney Blog Articles:

Car Accidents with Farm Equipment on Public Roads in Maryland

Maryland Car Accidents with Livestock and Other Animals in the Road

Posted On: December 6, 2010

Car Accidents with Farm Equipment on Public Roads in Maryland: When Lifestyles and Vehicles Collide

Fifty years ago, Farmer John owned the Maryland farm land that he plowed and tilled, planted and harvested. He worked from sun up to sun down within the confines of his own property. Therefore, the Maryland farmer of yesteryear had no reason to take his farm vehicles out onto the public roadways.

That's all changed now -- creating challenges for both farmers and motorists to avoid serious car accidents with farm equipment on rural Md. roadways.

The dynamic of farming has changed as suburbia has spread into rural Maryland -- into small towns in Carroll County and Howard County, Md.; Harford, Cecil, and Kent County, Md., among others. Homeowners buy up what once were huge farms and then subdivide their property, leasing out parcels of land to working Maryland farmers. These farmers must then drive their tractors, combines, and other agricultural vehicles to get from one parcel of land to the next. That's when accidents with motor vehicles can happen.

When Cars, Farm Machinery, and Livestock Meet on Maryland Roadways
Auto accidents with farm machinery in Maryland happen for many of the same reasons that car and livestock accidents occur. People working in Baltimore City are hurrying to and from work. They're busy and on tight schedules. They're not prepared to encounter a multi-ton piece of machinery (or a cow or bison, for that matter) as they round the bend in the road.

Farmers work by a different set of rules. They're up before sunrise and nothing they do is meant to be done fast -- including driving their farm equipment on the roads in Md. That was perfectly fine twenty years ago when those backwater byways were truly "the roads less traveled." But now we have double the volume of cars on Maryland back roads -- which are narrow, hilly, pocked with ditches, lined by fences and trees, and with no street lights. AND punctuated with farm equipment. Maryland drivers in a hurry to get somewhere may try to pass or get around these enormous vehicles. That's when serious accidents can happen.

Maryland farm equipment accident lawyers see a lot of these kinds of rural car accidents -- where motorists unaccustomed to driving around country roads and harvesting machinery are involved in serious road accidents. At the same time, farmers driving agricultural equipment must abide by the rules of the road in Maryland. This is why we recommend you contact an experienced Baltimore County, Md. car accident injury attorney when this type of road accident with farm vehicles and machines occurs. These cases can be complicated in both the eyes of the law and the insurance companies.

Related Web Resource

USDA: Agricultural Equipment on Public Roads (white paper -- PDF)