Posted On: June 29, 2011

Lighter Maryland Traffic Expected for July 4 Holiday -- But Drunk Driving Accidents Still a Public Safety Concern

Blame it on the economy and high gas prices…and maybe a little Maryland driver fatigue.

AAA Mid-Atlantic projects that Maryland traffic this 4th of July holiday weekend will be 2 percent lighter than last year, with an estimated 760,000 Maryland drivers taking to our state's roads and highways. Those who aren't piling into their cars, minivans, and SUVs to seek fun in the Maryland sun may opt for the "staycation" alternative instead. That is, leaving the family auto parked in the driveway is cheaper and safer than jockeying with other July 4 motorists.

But fewer July 4 holiday drivers doesn't mean driving this weekend in Maryland is without risks. Any holiday brings with it the risk of drunk driving accidents. A cooler full of beer is a backyard barbecue staple at many homes -- particularly on a hot Fourth of July afternoon.

People get into trouble, however, when they knock back a few drinks as they celebrate the Independence Day holiday, and then think they're OK to drive home over Maryland back roads, highways, and Baltimore city streets. You don't have to be falling down drunk to be impaired and a risk to yourself and other motorists and pedestrians on the roadways. Statistics tell a sobering story:

> The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2008, a total 591 Maryland traffic accident deaths occurred.

> Of those Md. traffic accident fatalities, 26% of drivers had blood-alcohol content (BAC) levels above the legal limit of .08

> Others had even more to drink before hitting the road and becoming involved in fatal Maryland auto crashes: 16% of drivers had a BAC of .15+

> Still, a percentage of drivers involved in fatal Md. auto accidents had BACs below the legal limit -- but still had some alcohol in their systems: NHTSA reports that 6% of drivers had a BAC between .01 and .07 %, bringing the total number of drivers in fatal auto crashes in Maryland in 2008 with a BAC of .01 or higher to 31%. That's nearly a third of all fatal crashes in Md. involving alcohol. (Source: NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2008 Data: Alcohol-Impaired Driving)

The Baltimore Sun reports that Maryland State Police will be out in force this July 4 holiday weekend, with DUI saturation patrols looking to find and stop drunk drivers. Last year, Maryland police arrested 163 people for drunk driving over the July 4 weekend -- issuing more than 7,000 traffic citations and 5,000 warnings. Seven people died in Maryland auto accidents over the last 4th of July holiday. As an experienced Baltimore car accident injury lawyer, I know that one death on Maryland's roads and highways is one too many. Families' lives are shattered in an instant.

While we Maryland traffic accident injury attorneys work hard to help grieving families through the legal process (when issues of liability on the other driver's part are involved) -- we can't bring back the loved ones who were killed on the roads in Maryland.

See a link below to an interesting report that Time magazine just published, asserting that "buzzed driving is drunk driving" and that no amount of alcohol is a "safe" amount for drivers to consume and then get behind the wheel. The article points to research that even one beer can contribute to the driver speeding, becoming the "striking vehicle," and getting involved in more severe car accidents. So be careful out there this holiday weekend. Have a safe and happy Fourth of July.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney article:

Maryland Governor Aims to Curb Drunk Driving Traffic Accidents and Deaths Feb. 5, 2010

Sources:

Fewer Maryland travelers expected July 4
The Baltimore Sun June 27, 2011

Driving While Buzzed: No Amount of Alcohol Is Safe Behind the Wheel
Time.com June 22, 2011

AAA Mid Atlantic

Posted On: June 13, 2011

Maryland Motorist Safety : Is What's Parked in Your Driveway Safer than the Car Your Father Drove?

How many modern safety features does the car you own and drive in Baltimore County, Maryland have? We've come a long way in motor vehicle safety features since our parents first herded us kids into the back of the family sedan.

All passenger cars since 1967 are required to have seat belts. Go to an antique car show and you'll be amazed at the beauty of vintage car interiors -- and the absence of seat belts. Dual air bags are a required automotive safety feature to diminish driver and passenger injury in event of a car crash (on cars made since 1998 and light trucks since 1999). Infant and child car seats and restraints -- which I didn't have growing up -- are now required by law. In Maryland, children under eight years old must ride in an appropriate child restraint, unless the child is 4'9" or taller or weighs more than 65 pounds.

Other safety features such as as all-wheel drive and anti-lock brakes are common on many makes and models of today's cars, trucks, and SUVs. And the automotive innovations keep coming. Manufacturers seek to make their cars studier, smarter, and more crash worthy…to help drivers avoid traffic accidents and minimize motorist injury and fatality, when traffic accidents do occur.

This week, the U.S. Department of Transportation is hosting the 22nd International Technical Conference on the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles in Washington, D.C. Auto manufacturers, engineers, and vehicle safety experts from the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden, Japan, Korea, China, and Austrialia will testify on a wide range of auto safety enhancement topics. These include automotive advancements in …

Front-end, side impact and roll-over vehicle crash avoidance and passenger protection
Pedestrian traffic safety features
Driver assistance systems for heavy trucks and buses
Motorcycle safety
Protection for child passengers, older adults, and other vulnerable occupants

…and many other topics. It's true, automotive safety has come along way since my parents piled us into the family car (no seat belts or child seats, thank you) for a leisurely Sunday drive through the Maryland countryside. And thanks to automotive innovations, changes in traffic laws, and driving safety education and advocacy efforts -- lives are being saved. NHTSA reports that in 2009, a total 33,808 people died in motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. -- the lowest number since 1950. But we still have a long ways to go. One death on the roads is one too many.

As Baltimore County car accident injury lawyers, we know that serious and fatal car accidents can still happen. In many ways, driving has become far more challenging in recent decades. People are driving faster and more furious, on roads, highways, and bridges that are handling far more traffic volume than they were designed for. Now distracted driving -- people on cell phones talking and texting -- has become a deadly national epidemic. No matter how many high-tech safety features your car, truck, or SUV has -- no one is accident proof in Maryland or anywhere else in the country. Be aware of what's around you and always drive defensively.

2nd International Technical Conference on the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles
NHTSA June 13 - 16, 2011, Washington, DC

What Are Maryland's Child Passenger Safety Laws?

Highlights of 2009 Motor Vehicle Crashes (PDF)
NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts Aug. 2010

Related Web Resource:

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: Top Safety Picks 2011

Related Maryland Accident Injury Attorney Articles:

Maryland Drivers Among Worst in U.S. for Knowledge of State Driving Laws May 27, 2011

Baltimore County Democrat Pushing Maryland Bill to Toughen Distracted Driving Law Feb. 17, 2011

Posted On: June 7, 2011

Maryland Motorcycle Traffic Accident Deaths Increase in 2010, Study Results Show

Do you own and operate a motorcycle in Maryland? How safe do you feel sharing Maryland's back roads, Baltimore city streets, highways, and bridges with cars, trucks (including commercial trucks), SUVs, vans, and other motor vehicles? Do you feel Md.'s traffic safety laws are adequate to protect motorcycle operators and their passengers?

As Baltimore County motorcycle accident injury lawyers, we've seen the devastating results of what can happen when a motorcycle traffic accident occurs in Maryland. Now a new national governors' study sheds some interesting light on motorcycle traffic safety laws and motorcycle accident deaths -- and the results are mixed.

The Governor's Highway Safety Association released preliminary data that suggests accidental deaths from motorcycle crashes in the U.S. declined overall by 2 percent in 2010. That's down to 4,376 motorcycle accident deaths estimated for 2010 as compared to 4,465 fatalities in 2009. The GHSA looked at all 50 states and our neighbors in Washington, DC. However, some of that initially encouraging news may be tempered by other factors, such as…

  • Rising gas costs keeping bikers and other motorists at home (risk for traffic accidents will rise as gas prices go down and more bikers and auto drivers hit the road).

  • The 2 percent decline in deaths is based on states that reported data for the first ninth months of 2010; motorcycle crash fatalities may increase for the last months of the year.

  • The reluctance of some states to adopt and/or add teeth to motorcycle helmet laws. A disappointing 30 states still lack helmet laws for all riders. Note: Maryland is among the 20 states and the District of Columbia that have universal helmet laws on the books.

  • The refusal of some free-wheeling motorcycle enthusiasts to put on helmets in states that don't have universal helmet laws requiring all operators (not just young adults) to wear helmets. Helmets can save lives and prevent catastrophic head and spine injuries.

  • The 2% decline is a modest gain compared to the 16 % decrease in motorcycle deaths recorded for 2009. Prior to 2009, motorcycle traffic accident deaths had steadily increased.

Maryland Motorcycle Accident Deaths Up in 2010 : Md. Safety Official Speaks Out
GHSA Chairman Vernon Betkey, director of Maryland’s highway safety program, was quoted in a GHSA press release about the motorcycle accident statistics. He spoke about motorcycle traffic safety in the state of Maryland -- where motorcycle accident deaths actually rose in the past year.

“In my state, we suspect motorcycle fatalities increased 3 percent largely because of an unusual spike in crashes in one of our more rural counties. We are working closely with law enforcement agencies and highway safety partners in this area to address the issue. Additionally, Maryland has stepped up efforts in work zones to ensure motorcycle riders are as safe as possible, is placing more emphasis on training and licensure, and is increasing investment in the state’s public information and education campaign.” (GHSA Press Release, April 19, 2011)

In Maryland, 91 people died from motorcycle traffic accidents in 2008. Updated data will be reported as it is made available. The GHSA urges all states to continue their motorcycle safety promotion efforts, including strengthening helmet laws, cracking down on drug- and alcohol-impaired driving, and offering motorcycle operator training and safety education for all bikers of all ages.

Related Maryland Motorcycle Accident Attorney article:

Maryland Motorcycle Traffic Accidents in the News, Though National Motorcycle Accident Death Rates Have Declined May 1, 2010

Sources:

New Study: Motorcycle Deaths Decline Slightly But Concerns Develop
Fatalities decline overall by at least 2% but increase later in year
GHSA Press Release April 19, 2011

Motorcyclist Traffic Fatalities by State : Preliminary Data 2010 (PDF)
GHSA Report

Q&As: Motorcycle Helmet Use
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety May 2011

Summary of State Motorcycle Helmet Laws (PDF)
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration current through Jan. 4, 2011

2011 Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program
Maryland Dept. of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Administration