Posted On: April 30, 2012

Running on Red in Maryland : Would Longer Yellow Traffic Light Times Cut Down on Intersection Accidents?

Maryland drivers are no strangers to this frightening scenario. You're stopped at a red light in say, Baltimore. Just as the light turns green and your foot hits the gas pedal -- another car shoots through the intersection in front of you, running his or her red light. You slam on your brakes, gasp for breath, and thank your lucky stars you weren't broadsided and hurt, or worse.

As a Baltimore County car accident injury lawyer, I know from work with injured and grieving clients that not everyone is so fortunate in this all-too-common scenario. Motorists who run red lights can cause devastating crashes resulting in motor vehicle damage, bodily injury, and death -- all to save a minute and avoid sitting at the traffic light.

Some national transportation experts believe that extending yellow traffic light times might cut down on the incidence of drivers running red lights, and curb not only traffic violations but intersection auto accidents. Opponents believe that drivers would adapt to longer yellow light times, and those inclined to race through intersections to beat the red lights would do so anyway.

Under Maryland traffic law, yellow lights are intended to give drivers time to slow down and warn pedestrians in advance of traffic lights changing. The Md traffic laws state:

(1) Vehicular traffic facing a steady yellow signal is warned that the related green movement is ending or that a red signal, which will prohibit vehicular traffic from entering the intersection, will be shown immediately after the yellow signal. (2) Unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian control signal…, a pedestrian facing a steady yellow signal is warned that there is not enough time to cross the roadway before a red signal is shown, and a pedestrian may not then start to cross the roadway.
(Source: 2010: Maryland Transportation Code via Justia.com US Law)

Yellow traffic lights can vary in duration from just a couple seconds to several seconds long. The installation of more traffic cameras -- in Maryland and around the country -- has become controversial in relation to yellow lights. While proponents of red light and speed cameras believe they save lives, others feel that where yellow lights turn to red quickly, the cameras may entrap drivers who would stop if given more time.

Unfortunately, to many drivers in Maryland and around the US, a yellow traffic light has come to mean "hurry up." The results of this misinterpretation can be dangerous, damaging, and deadly.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney articles:

Lessons Learned Abroad: Why Auto Accident Death Rates Are Lower in Europe Than in the U.S. (Sept. 15, 2011)

Deterring Baltimore County Traffic Accidents: Speed Camera Laws Go Into Effect (Oct. 7, 2009)

Related Web Resources:

Maryland Dept of Transportation: Traffic Safety Laws

NHTSA: Driver Education

U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration:

Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices

Traffic Signal Timing Manual

Posted On: April 17, 2012

Why Distracted Driving in Maryland Can Be as Deadly as Drunk Driving

It's become a tragic and all-too-familiar news story: A driver involved in a fatal car accident was found to be texting or talking on a cell phone right before the deadly crash occurred.

Often the driver is a teenager, an inexperienced youth operator just learning the rules of the road. However studies have shown that adults can be just as guilty of texting while driving as their teenagers. And while the problem of texting and driving may have overshadowed using cell phones while driving, the latter remains a serious traffic safety concern on par with drunk driving.

The U.S. Department of Transportation declared April as National Distracted Driving Awareness month. With good reason.

As we Baltimore, Maryland car accident injury lawyers know from decades of experience: Serious and deadly auto accidents can happen in a heartbeat. All it takes is for the driver to take his or her eyes off the road or become distracted for a second, and a collision with another automobile, motorcycle, pedestrian or object can occur. Even in states like Maryland that have a primary texting while driving ban on the law books, we still observe adult and teenage drivers with their heads down and their thumbs typing away.

While Maryland and the U.S. as a whole have made life-saving gains in traffic safety in other areas -- the problem of using cellphones to talk, read and send text messages while driving cars, trucks and SUVs remains a tough one to curb.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has taken his message against distracted driving public, asking states to pass and implement tougher traffic safety laws. Some frightening statistics from the government's distracted driving prevention website:

  • Motorists who engage in texting while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in an auto crash.

  • Drivers talking on a hand-held device are 4 times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident with injury.

  • Talking on a cell phone while driving can delay driver reaction time as much as if the driver were legally drunk (i.e., with a point .08 blood alcohol concentration).

Maryland Traffic Laws on Texting and Cell Phone Use While Driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that some 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving motor vehicle accidents in 2010. Maryland has joined states that have an all-out ban on texting while driving, making it a primary offense. However Maryland's ban on talking on hand-held devices may only be enforced as a secondary offense. (In other words, the driver must be pulled over by police for some other primary offense. See link to GHSA website below for more detail on state laws on distracted driving.)

Is any text message or cell phone call to a friend, family member, or co-worker worth loss of life or limb? Most rationale people would say, "Of course not!" However the problem of texting and talking on cellphones while driving endures in Maryland and across the country. Be careful out there and please, save the texting and cell phone chatting for when your car is in park.

Related Baltimore Accident Injury Lawyer Articles:

U.S. Highway Safety Group Green Lights Maryland Traffic Laws, While Noting Areas that Need Improvement (Jan. 18, 2012)

Should Maryland Laws Banning Cell Phone Use While Driving Get Even Tougher? (Dec. 21, 2011)

Sources:

April Declared Distracted Driving Month
National League of Cities April 16, 2012

April Is Distracted Driving Awareness Month
U.S. Department of Transportation blog April 3, 2012

Related Web Resources:

Distraction.gov : Official U.S. Government Website for Distracted Driving

Cell Phone and Texting Laws April 2012
Governors' Highway Safety Association