Posted On: January 30, 2011

Maryland SUV and Car Crash Safety: Insurance Institute Pushes for Standard Bumper Heights

Remember when the only people who drove pickup trucks in Maryland were farmers, construction workers, and other working people with loads to haul? That was back when a family-sized vehicle was called a station wagon -- and modern innovations such as all-wheel drive, GPS navigation, and onboard entertainment systems weren't even on the drawing board.

Fast forward a couple decades down the road, where more and more Americans started feeling like they too should be driving a truck, or something of that stature. Something that would be a presence on the road. Enter the sport utility vehicle or SUV. Now seems like practically every other car on the road is an SUV. SUVs of every shape, size, and color. Some the size of tanks (the Hummer, for example). The size is what's causing headaches for the insurance industry -- and for consumers who find even minor fender benders can be costly, in dollars and injuries.

As an experienced Baltimore SUV accident injury lawyer knows from work with injured clients -- when an SUV is involved in a traffic accident with a car in Maryland, the smaller vehicle tends to be on the losing end. One of the problems, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), is the mismatched bumper heights.

In the past, when two cars had a minor fender bender, usually no one got badly hurt, and a trip to the auto body shop made the bumper good as new. Now, when an SUV, light truck, or minivan rear-ends or front-ends a smaller automobile, there's greater potential for serious damage to both vehicles and injury to their occupants. Mismatched bumper heights means the bumpers can't perform the job they were made to do, which is absorb impact when traffic accidents occur and, as the IIHS states, "keep damage away from safety-related equipment such as headlights and taillights and protect vehicle parts such as hoods, fenders, and exhaust and cooling systems..." which are more expensive to repair.

The IIHS has been working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for years to "...amend Part 581 Bumper Standard to extend applicability to light trucks, vans, and multipurpose passenger vehicles." Writes the IIHS: "Vehicles should not need to be towed away after a 10 mph impact, and this outcome is a direct result of bumper mismatch." IIHS says minor low-speed accidents can end up costing consumers and their insurance companies thousands of dollars -- an expense that could be avoided if bumper height standards extended to SUVs and other large vehicles. (See link to latest report and crash tests below.)

It's unclear how auto manufacturers would respond to any new regulations, given the enormous variety of vehicle makes and models on the market today.

Sources:

IIHS Status Report: Bumper Mismatch Is Still a Problem (PDF)

IIHS Q&A: Bumpers

Related Maryland Injury Attorney Blog Article:
Buying Auto Insurance in Maryland (Part 1): Bodily Injury

Posted On: January 19, 2011

Baltimore County Winter Driving Safety : Is Your Car a Moving Igloo After a Maryland Snow Storm?

As experienced Baltimore car accident injury lawyers will attest -- winter driving in Maryland can be mighty challenging. This is true for any Baltimore County resident who commutes to work on Maryland highways and roads, maybe over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge or into Baltimore City on a daily basis. Snow and ice make the experience that much more interesting.

Winter weather is often cited as a contributing factor in serious Baltimore County car accidents. Sometimes, it's a challenge just to get out of the driveway.

Which explains why, after Mother Nature dumps a snowy load on Maryland, we see the inevitable "moving igloos" chugging down our streets and cruising down our highways. By that we mean cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs driven by people who didn't clean the snow and ice off their vehicles. You know the ones...where the driver is peering out a tiny hole in an icy windshield that hasn't been fully defrosted. If you've been behind one of these mobile snow cones when the 10-inch cap of snow or 3-inch sheet of ice on the car roof lets go--you know what a driving hazard this problem can be.

In the past, our neighboring lawmakers in Washington, DC have put emergency laws in place requiring drivers to fully clean the snow and ice from their cars following a snow storm. Some Snow Belt states such as Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire--and even to the south in Georgia--allow police officers to issue moving violation citations to drivers whose snow-covered cars present a public safety hazard.

The problem of not removing snow from motor vehicles extends to large commercial tractor trailer rigs, as well. The American Transportation Research Institute did a study on snow accumulation on large commercial trucks and avoiding traffic accidents caused by snow and ice flying off trucks and onto the highway and other vehicles. The ATRI describes the challenges of removing snow from the lofty top of a tractor trailer truck (see link below).

Winter is not done with Baltimore County by a long shot--where county officials are challenged to keep some 2,600 miles of roads and highways clear. Given the "snowpocalypse" that Maryland experienced in 2010, we can only brace for what the next couple months may have in store for us. In the mean time, we should all remember to take the time to adequately scrape the snow and ice off our cars after a snow storm--for our own winter driving safety and that of our fellow Md. motorists.

Baltimore County, Maryland Storm Center

Snow and Ice Accumulation on Vehicles (PDF report summary)
American Transportation Research Institute

Law's Message to Motorists: Lose the Snow
The Washington Post

eHow.com: How to Remove Snow and Ice from Your Car

Posted On: January 7, 2011

Baltimore Beltway Traffic Accident Claims Life of Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver

A commercial truck driver was killed on a heavily traveled portion of the Baltimore Beltway earlier this week, The Baltimore Sun reports.

The newspaper stated that the fatal Baltimore County truck accident occurred around 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 4 on the Interstate 695 Inner Loop heading northbound, near Providence Road -- near one of the more heavily populated areas of the Baltimore Beltway. The truck driver reportedly struck a motor vehicle left unattended on the beltway shoulder and then hit a concrete abutment, before his truck flipped over. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Baltimore County, Maryland authorities were working to identify the truck driver killed.

Maryland State Police continue to investigate this fatal Baltimore traffic accident. It is unclear what if any role the unattended vehicle played in the factors leading up to this deadly commercial truck crash on I-695.

As a point of interest, 2010 Maryland Code considers any motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer "[t]hat is inoperable and left unattended on public property for more than 48 hours..." to be an abandoned vehicle. Other circumstances may lead the state to consider a vehicle to be abandoned (see link to Md. transportation code language below).

Baltimore truck accident injury lawyers are familiar with Maryland state traffic laws and safety regulations designed to keep our highways safe for all drivers. Sadly, as in this case, a commercial truck driver out hauling a load doesn't make it to his destination.

Driver of tractor-trailer killed in accident involving unattended vehicle
The Baltimore Sun Jan. 4, 2011

2010 Maryland Code : Transportation
Justia.com: Laws & Regulations

Related Web Resources:

Maryland Transportation Authority

Baltimore Beltway: Historic Overview