October 30, 2014

Maryland Drivers : Have You Received a GM or Other Auto Safety Recall Notice?

General Motors has been in the news for all the wrong reasons this year, with millions of vehicles recalled for alleged safety hazards — and the company under fire from Congress and consumers over related motor vehicle accident deaths. The defect that's received the most coverage involves an ignition switch that can allegedly turn off while the vehicle is in motion. Thirteen deaths have been linked to that reported defect, some going back many years.

Auto safety recalls cover a range of known safety hazards and potential problems in cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles and other motor vehicles, as well as tire defects. Sometimes the vehicle manufacturer initiates the recall on its own, while other times the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) orders the recall based on consumer complaints and its own investigations.

If you've owned more than one vehicle in Maryland, chances are at some point you've received an auto safety recall notice in the mail. Did you call your dealership right away to get the defective part repaired? That's the safe and responsible thing to do. However auto industry watchers estimate a full one-third of consumers ignore safety recall notices -- at risk to themselves, their passengers, the driving public and pedestrians.

When consumers ignore automotive safety recall notices, they are driving vehicles that may pose serious public safety hazards. What's more, unrepaired vehicles sold on the used car market have traditionally been more difficult to track. Carfax estimates one in ten used vehicles sold online have unrepaired safety issues.

NHTSA now offers a new online search tool that allows consumers to input their VIN (vehicle identification number) to see if any recall notices have been issued for that specific vehicle. They also offer ways to search by vehicle make, model and year. (See link below under "Resources.")

If you own a vehicle in Maryland and receive an auto safety recall notice -- don't ignore it. The auto manufacturer is obliged to repair or replace the defective equipment at no charge to the consumer. Make the time and get the problem fixed. You could be saving your own life or someone else's.

Related Baltimore Injury Attorney Article:

Maryland Drivers : Is Your Car on the List of GM Safety Recalls? (April 2014)

Sources:

Consumers Ignore Auto Recall Notices at Their Own Risk
TheStreet / Main Street April 16, 2014

GM probe blames incompetence for long delay in deadly defect case
Baltimore Sun June 5, 2014

Auto dealers handle national recall increase
Democrat and Chronicle Oct. 8, 2014

Resources:

Search Safety Issues: Recalls, Investigations & ComplaintsSaferCar.gov


June 15, 2014

What Is Maryland Doing to Prevent Distracted Driving Accidents?

Back in the day when families typically owned one car (usually a sedan or station wagon the size of Delaware), "distracted driving" meant fiddling with the radio, eating a messy sandwich or yelling at kids in the back seat to settle down. Those rolling activities still fall under the government's definition of distracted driving, along with smoking, putting on makeup and other things that take the driver's eyes off the road and hands off the wheel.

The advent of the cell phone, however, took distracted driving to a new level. These devices that keep us connected and put information at our fingertips have become indispensable. It's disturbing to think our new generation of drivers never knew a time when they didn't have a phone in their car. Once people could text on their cell phones, the problem of distracted driving on our roadways got worse. Some public safety experts believe texting while driving is as much of a hazard as drunk driving. Teens texting while driving is particularly troublesome.

Over the years, states like Maryland have taken measures to pass laws, educate the public, focus on teens and parents, and partner with schools, agencies and other organizations to prevent distracted driving accidents. Maryland is among the 47 states and the District of Columbia to pass specific distracted driving laws.

In 2012, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) surveyed its members to see where states had made gains, and where more needs to be done. Here are a few examples of what Maryland has done to prevent distracted driving accidents:

  • In 2008, Maryland added distracted driving to its strategic highway safety plans.

  • Maryland has state distracted driver laws on its books. E.g., Text messaging while driving is against the law for all drivers, and using hand-held cell phones was recently made a primary offense. Maryland also bans cell phone use for novices and school bus drivers (see link to related article, below).

  • Maryland state crash report forms collect data on cell phone use by vehicle operator, and failure to pay full-time and attention.

  • Maryland reports that in the last three years, distracted driving crashes have decreased.

  • Maryland has taken steps to educate the public about distracted driving. E.g., The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration partnered with Maryland Shock Trauma to produce a "Get the Message" video. However, the state does not have its own campaign message/tagline.

Under the GHSA survey category of "Major Obstacles in the Area of Distracted Driving," Maryland listed the following: Lack of public support; lack of funding for enforcement; lack of distracted driving data collection; and lack of state-specific research. Maryland also does not work with employers to develop workforce distracted driving policies.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration estimates that more than 30,000 people in Maryland are injured every year due to distracted driving crashes. Despite recent gains, Maryland still could do more to prevent distracted driving accidents, including crashes caused by texting while driving.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney articles:

New Maryland Traffic Safety Laws Target Cell Phone and Seat Belt Use (Jan. 2014)

More Drivers Admit to Web Surfing While Behind the Wheel (Nov. 2013)

Source:

Distracted Driving Survey of the States (PDF)
Governors Highway Safety Association July 2013


April 15, 2014

Maryland Drivers : Is Your Car on the List of GM Safety Recalls?

General Motors has recalled an estimated 7 million motor vehicles this year for safety issues in a number of cars and SUVs, model years 2003 to 2015. Problems include faulty ignition switches, power steering and side airbags in certain Chevy, Pontiac and Saturn vehicles. Maryland drivers, is one of these recalled cars in your driveway? See link to GM owners' portal below to search for your vehicle and see if it's been recalled. Failure to have a recalled vehicle repaired by the dealer could lead to a serious or even fatal motor vehicle accident.

One of the most serious safety issues to land GM in the headlines of late involves a faulty ignition switch, which could shut off the car unexpectedly, disabling the power steering and power brakes. Vehicles involved in the ignition switch recall include the Chevy Cobalt, Pontiac G5, Saturn Ion and others.

The faulty GM ignition switch has been blamed for a number of motor vehicle accidents and 13 deaths. Now that the problem has come to light, GM officials are under intense scrutiny, with government leaders and the public demanding to know who knew what and when. For a full list of GM vehicle makes and model years involved in the ignition switch recall, see the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) / SaferCar.gov webpage link, below.

Other GM recalls involve faulty transmission cooling lines in certain Chevy and GMC SUVs; problems with brake assembly plugs in certain Cadillac XTS sedans; a defective axle shaft in the Chevy Cruze turbo, which could lead to the car losing power; and problems with the instrument panel in the Chevy Express and GMC Savannah.

General Motors will send safety recall notifications to owners of the affected vehicles. As Baltimore County auto accident lawyers, we see the results of serious motor vehicle crashes. Which is why it's hard for us to believe -- and may come as a surprise to responsible drivers -- that many vehicle owners in fact ignore safety recall notices.

Industry watchers out of Detroit estimate that a full third of recalled cars and trucks don't get repaired, and as many as one in seven vehicles on the road has an unrepaired recall issue. This puts not only those drivers and passengers at risk, but the life and welfare of other motorists and pedestrians -- if the driver looses control and the vehicle crashes. If you own a GM vehicle, check to see if it's on the recall list. If it is, call your dealer for an appointment. Manufacturers are required to make recall repairs free of charge to the owners, and many dealers provide loaner vehicles. Do it for yourself, your family and the Maryland driving public.

Sources:

GM Owners' Web Portal -- Recalls

Consumer Alert: GM Ignition Switch Recall Information
NHTSA / SaferCar.gov Collected April 15, 2014

2014 GM Recall Roundup
Yahoo! Voices April 4, 2014

GM expands ignition switch recall to 2.6 million cars
Reuters March 28, 2014

Despite risks, many recalled vehicles will remain unrepaired as drivers ignore notices
Automotive News April 15, 2014

February 28, 2014

Maryland Auto Crash Death Rates Increase in 2012

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) analyzed US auto accident fatality rates for 2012.* In Maryland, 456 fatal motor vehicle crashes were recorded with 505 related deaths. That's an increase over the 485 auto crash fatalities reported in 2011 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Maryland's 505 crash related deaths in 2012 amounts to 8.6 deaths per 100,000 population and 0.90 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. That is less than the overall US rate of 10.7 deaths per 100,000 population. By comparison, North Dakota had the highest death rate at 24.3 deaths per 100,000, while our neighbors in District of Columbia had the lowest rate at 2.4 deaths.

The IIHS report reveals other facts about fatal Maryland traffic crashes in 2012:

-- 45% were passenger car occupants
-- 18% were pickup truck and SUV occupants
-- 1% were large truck occupants
-- 14% were motorcyclists
-- 19% were pedestrians
-- 1% were bicyclists

In addition, 44 percent of fatal Maryland crashes were single-vehicle crashes, while 56 percent were multi-vehicle crashes. Those of us who live and work in Maryland know the dangers of our winding back roads. However, 60 percent of fatal Maryland crashes occurred in urban areas, while 39 percent occurred in rural areas.

Not surprisingly, drunk driving continues to be a deadly threat on our nation's highways, including in Maryland. Of the 233 drivers killed in Maryland crashes in 2012 -- 72 percent were found to have blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels greater than the legal limit of .08.

Maryland auto accident injury lawyers like us know the stories behind the crash fatality data. Each death recorded is a life tragically cut short -- a man, woman or child who didn't make it home that day. We see the heartbreak left in the wake of a fatal accident, as families cope with the sudden loss of a loved one. The emotional and financial toll can be overwhelming, which is why we're here to help families who've lost someone in a Maryland motor vehicle accident.

Maryland has taken measures in recent years to cut down on motor vehicle crashes, injuries and fatalities. This includes adding further restrictions to laws regulating cell phone and seat belt use, installing more speed cameras at dangerous intersections and in school zones, and mounting public awareness campaigns. Still, any death on Maryland's roadways is one death too many. Recent statistics show we still have much work to do to achieve zero traffic accident deaths.

* Data gathered by the US Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney Articles:

New Maryland Traffic Safety Laws Target Cell Phone and Seat Belt Use (Jan. 2014)

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

Sources:

Fatal Crash Totals in 2012
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute
Collected online Feb. 2014

Traffic Safety Facts 2011 (PDF)
US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

January 15, 2014

New Maryland Traffic Safety Laws Target Cell Phone and Seat Belt Use

Last fall, Maryland lawmakers added teeth to two key state traffic laws -- those governing the use of cell phones and seat belts. Baltimore County car accident lawyers are familiar with Maryland traffic safety laws, which are often broken during the course of a motor vehicle crash. Let's take a look at changes to our Maryland state cell phone and seat belt laws.

Most likely you've witnessed a scene like this: Another driver speeds past you on the Baltimore Beltway with a cell phone in one hand -- talking a mile a minute -- seemingly oblivious to the traffic around them. If you've witnessed this scene recently on any Maryland roadway, it's now a primary traffic offense.

As of October 1, 2013, Maryland's Cell Phone Use Ban (TR 21–1124.2) now treats hand-held cell phone use while driving as a primary offense. (It used to be a secondary offense, meaning police would need to stop the driver for another traffic violation to cite the hand-held cellphone use). Now, Maryland police officers may pull a driver over if they observe them talking on a hand-held cell phone, with no other traffic violation taking place. The ticket for a first offense is $83, with fines increasing for subsequent violations.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration estimates that more than 30,000 people in Maryland are injured every year due to distracted driving crashes. Texting while driving in Maryland has been illegal for some years now, so banning the use of hand-held cell phones is a natural progression in public safety law.

Maryland is one of 12 states plus Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands to make its hand-held cell phone law a primary offense. Drivers are allowed to talk using hands-free cell phone devices, such as headset and Bluetooth systems. No states ban all uses of cellphones while driving.

Buckling up the seat belts comes as second nature for smart drivers and their passengers in Maryland. Most newer cars have a warning beep that goes off if you don't buckle your seat belt. Unfortunately, there are still too many people -- including young, novice drivers and their passengers -- who fail to use their seat belts.

As of October 2013, failure to wear a seat belt in Maryland is now a primary offense for drivers and front seat passengers, and a secondary offense for back seat passengers. The newly restrictive Maryland Seat Belt Law (TR 22–412.3) comes with an $83 fine per person caught not wearing their seat belt. Drivers may receive additional fines if they are caught with passengers in the vehicle under age 16 who are not buckled up.

Maryland is one of 33 states and the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands with a primary offense seat belt law for drivers on their books.

Maryland car accident lawyers like us know that traffic safety laws, when combined with law enforcement and education, help save lives. There will still be drivers who disregard the laws, putting themselves, their passengers and other motorists at risk if an accident occurs. Tougher laws may, however, serve as a deterrent to some Maryland drivers, who would rather put down their cell phones and buckle their seat belts than face a hefty fine.

Related Maryland Car Accident Attorney articles:

More Drivers Admit to Web Surfing While Behind the Wheel (Nov. 2013)

Maryland Seeks to Add More Teeth to Distracted Driver Laws (May 2012)

Sources:

Maryland's New Cell Phone and Seat Belt Laws (PDF)
Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration Oct. 2013

Maryland Highway Safety Laws
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Jan. 2014

Distracted Driving Laws
Seat Belt Laws
Governors Highway Safety Administration Jan. 2014

November 15, 2013

More Drivers Admit to Web Surfing While Behind the Wheel

As if texting while driving (illegal in Maryland) weren't dangerous enough, more drivers admit to using the Internet while behind the wheel. We see the tragic results of distracted driving when car accident victims come to our Baltimore personal injury law firm for help. We have never heard one good reason for anyone being on a cell phone while driving that was important enough to warrant taking one's hands off the wheel and eyes off the road.

State Farm reports that "webbing while driving" is on the rise, with 24 percent of US drivers surveyed admitting to the practice. This refers to drivers using their smart phones to surf the Internet -- when their eyes should be on the road. The top reasons drivers go online while driving are to (1) find directions, (2) read email, (3) obtain information "of immediate interest," (4) engage on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and (5) compose / send email.

Distracted driving has become an increasing threat on our Maryland roadways and around the country, leading to serious and deadly motor vehicle crashes. Public safety advocates now believe distracted driving can be as deadly as drunk driving. The CDC estimates more than 16 people are killed and 1,300 people are injured in crashes involving distracted driving every day.

Unfortunately, the tech devices designed to make our lives easier have in fact added new hazards to driving. Once cell phones became affordable to practically everyone, our culture changed. Now people expect to be in touch with each other immediately and constantly -- including while driving -- even for trivial reasons. Texting made the problem on our roads and highways worse, as drivers have their heads down as they compose and send text messages. Maryland is one of 41 states that have made texting illegal as a primary offense.

The relative affordability and ubiquitousness of so-called "smart phones" has added another element of risk to the driving public. Now movie times and restaurant reviews are just a few taps of the screen away. The problem is it only takes an instant of distraction for a driver to cause a serious or fatal car or truck accident. The State Farm survey found that that webbing while driving has steadily increased over the past 5 years.

USA Today reports that since 2009, the incidence of going on the Internet while driving has doubled among drivers ages 18 to 29 -- increasing from 29 to 49 percent of drivers surveyed. That's nearly HALF of all young drivers surveyed. But the problem can't be blamed on younger drivers exclusively. State Farm also found that half of all drivers ages 30 to 39 surveyed admitted to using the Internet while they were driving.

The Atlantic Wire reports that an estimated one in four drivers are doing something behind the wheel with an electronic device -- something that is taking their eyes and minds off the road. If that doesn't give you pause to slow down and drive defensively in Maryland, nothing will.

Related Baltimore Car Accident Injury lawyer article:

Maryland Seeks to Add More Teeth to Distracted Driver Laws (May 2012)

Sources:

Webbing While Driving
State Farm Insurance 2011

Americans Can't Stay Off the Internet, Even While Driving
The Atlantic Wire Nov. 12, 2013

Distracted Driving Laws
Governors Highway Safety Administration Nov. 2013

November 5, 2013

Older Driver Car Crashes a Concern in Baltimore, Maryland and Across the U.S.

It's one of the toughest topics to broach with an aging parent or relative: When is it time to hand over the keys and give up the car? Some of the saddest cases we deal with here as experienced Baltimore County accident injury lawyers involve senior citizens who should not have been behind the wheel. In the blink of an eye, they make a mistake that causes a serious or fatal motor vehicle crash. Those cases are tragic for everyone involved, including the elderly person driving.

As the Baby Boomer population ages, traffic safety advocates here in Maryland and at the national level are taking a harder look at preventing accidents among drivers aged 65 and older.

A recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report notes that traffic crash statistics, broken down by driver age, resemble a U. Teenage drivers comprise the group that causes the most car accidents, then crash statistics level out across adulthood. However, accident statistics begin to rise dramatically again for drivers ages 70 and up. NHTSA reports that…

"In 2011, 5,401 people age 65 and older were killed and 185,000 were injured in
motor vehicle traffic crashes. These older individuals made up 17 percent of all traffic fatalities and 8 percent of all people injured in traffic crashes during the year…"

The new NHTSA study looked at reasons why driving abilities can decline over age 65, along with licensing procedures for seniors in all 50 states. Some of the factors that can lead to older drivers getting in serious auto crashes include…

  • Decreased cognitive and motor functioning abilities (including hand and arm movements, and ability to safely apply gas and brakes)

  • Decreased reaction times

  • Medical conditions

  • Changes in eyesight

  • Medications that can cause drowsiness or confusion

The NHTSA report examined how state licensing procedures might better screen for changes in senior citizens' abilities to operate a motor vehicle safely. Only a few states require in-person license renewal and testing for older drivers. The study looked closely at states with licensing program features not widely in place elsewhere, such as anonymous reporting of potentially dangerous drivers (including physician immunity), Rules of the Road classes for seniors, free ID cards for seniors surrendering their licenses, and medical review units at licensing sites.

The Maryland Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Administration, notes that…

  • Maryland has close to 708,000 residents age 65 and over (12% of the population), and over 98,000 age 85 and over (2% of the population). Most reside in Baltimore, Montgomery, and Prince George's Counties and Baltimore City.

  • As of early 2012, Maryland has 604,487 licensed drivers ages 65 and over.

These numbers are expected to increase further as our own Baby Boomers become older drivers. However, the Maryland MVA states: "Age alone does not make unsafe drivers, and licensing is NOT determined by a diagnosis. If someone questions whether you are medically qualified to drive, MVA focuses on functional ability…not age or disease…and provides an individual review on fitness to drive." (See links to Maryland MVA below for more information.)

The NHTSA study found that many seniors understand the reasons for programs governing driver's license renewal, as no one wants to be involved in, much less cause, a serious motor vehicle accident. Still, driving is tied directly to a person's independence, and families often struggle with knowing when to ask a loved one to give up their vehicle.

More programs in Maryland and across the U.S. will need to address this thorny subject as a public safety concern, for the sake of our seniors and all other motorists who share the road with them.

Related Maryland Car Accident Attorney Article:

Baltimore County Driving Safety: No. of Older Drivers in Maryland to Ramp Up by 2025 (June 2010)

Sources:

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Licensing Procedures for Older Drivers (Report No. DOT HS 811 833) Sept. 2013 (PDF)

Traffic Safety Facts 2011 Data: Older Population April 2013 (PDF)

Maryland Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Administration:

Older Driver Traffic Safety Facts

Additional Resources for Older Drivers

Older Driver Safety / Safe Mobility for Life

September 25, 2013

Maryland Drivers Won't Catch a Break if Third Brake Light Is Out, High Court Rules

"I didn't see her brake lights." "I didn't think I was going that fast." "I thought I could make it through the intersection in time." Baltimore County car accident injury lawyers like us have heard all the possible reasons (and then some) for why Maryland drivers get in traffic accidents -- and why they think they aren't at fault in any way.

As we blogged about in July, Maryland is not a victim-friendly state if you're in a serious motor vehicle accident with injury, and you're even a fraction to blame. The Maryland Contributory Negligence Law, which was recently upheld in the high court, can make it difficult in many traffic accident injury cases for victims to collect compensation or damages -- unless they have an experienced accident injury attorney to advocate for them. (See link to related blog article below.)

Now the Maryland Court of Special Appeals has given police one more good reason to pull over Maryland drivers. On Sept. 10, the Court ruled that driving with a broken third brake light is inherently unsafe -- and sufficient grounds for law enforcement to pull the vehicle over.

The case stemmed from an incident in Baltimore City in 2011, where a man whom police had been watching as he walked on a city street got into the passenger seat of a car and rode away. Police could not stop him as a pedestrian, as he was not engaged in any criminal behavior.

However when they followed the vehicle and noticed the third brake light out, they pulled the vehicle over. A search of the car revealed the smell of marijuana and a firearm; the man in the passenger seat was later convicted of firearms possession. The man appealed on the grounds that the traffic stop for the broken rear deck brake light was illegal.

The Maryland high court disagreed.

Maryland traffic safety code requires that all vehicles made after June 1967 be equipped with at least two stop lamps. However, state code requires motor vehicle inspectors to fail any vehicles made after 1985 if they do not have a working third center-mounted brake light.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study from 1986 to 1995 determined the third brake light on vehicles -- known as Center High Mounted Stop Lamps in automotive circles -- gives motorists a better indication of braking traffic and prevents rear-end collision accidents.

A judge in the case wrote, "…even with two functioning rear brake lights, the specific safety advantages of the center high-mounted brake light demand that it function properly."

So keep all your vehicle's lights in working order, including the ones you can't easily see. Remember, Maryland police see more than you think.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney article:

Maryland Personal Injury Law : Court Upholds Contributory Negligence Law in Soccer Player Accident Case (July 2013)

Sources:

Maryland: Court Upholds Traffic Stop Over Third Brake Light
Second highest court in Maryland holds driving without a third brake light is inherently unsafe.
The Newspaper.com Sept. 24, 2013

Third Brake Light Is No Third Wheel
American Psychological Association May 28, 2003

August 15, 2013

Maryland Highway Hazard: Unsecured Loads Cause Serious and Fatal Traffic Accidents, GOA Reports

A few years ago, we wrote about how the fall migration of students back to Maryland colleges brings with it a certain, hard-to-miss road hazard -- unsecured loads. This year will likely be no different.

We'll see them careening down Maryland interstates and highways: Mattresses strapped precariously to car roofs, their edges flapping in the breeze. Pickup trucks stacked willy-nilly with sofas, chairs, and other furniture, just a rope snap away from potential disaster. Suitcases, boxes, and other cargo that didn't stay put litter the Maryland roadsides.

Such amateur efforts at loading cargo make us slap our foreheads and shake our heads in disbelief. But it's no laughing matter when unsecured cargo comes loose and becomes a dangerous projectile and obstacle on Maryland highways. Baltimore County auto accident lawyers like us see the results of bad driving and risk taking on Maryland roadways. Poor decisions can lead to bad accidents.

With the annual migration of Maryland college students returning to school already in progress -- the subject merits another look. Last year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to improve its data collection around unsecured loads and deadly motor vehicle accidents. The report authors write:

Vehicles carrying objects that are not properly secured pose a safety risk on our nation's roadways. Debris that falls from a vehicle can collide with other vehicles or pedestrians, causing serious injuries or fatalities. According to data collected by NHTSA, there were about 440 fatalities caused by roadway debris in 2010. However, the exact number of incidents resulting from vehicles carrying unsecured loads is unknown.

The report notes that all 50 states and the District of Columbia have statutes related to unsecured loads for both commercial and non-commercial vehicles. Drivers of trucks and cars recklessly loaded with furniture and other items may be subject to fines and penalties, which vary from state to state. But that doesn't stop people from slinging their belongings haphazardly into a pickup truck bed or onto the car roof and taking off down the road.

College students aren't the only ones at fault. Amateur movers, collectors, junkers, contractors -- anyone who has something to move and doesn't take the time (or have the know-how) to properly secure the load can create a highway hazard.

The report commends a few states such as North Carolina and Washington for their public awareness programs aimed at educating motorists on properly securing loads. Until Maryland has such a program -- and people take the time to learn -- steer clear of hastily packed vehicles you see on the roadways. There's no telling when a couch or mattress might become airborne with tragic results.

Related Maryland Accident Attorney article:

Maryland Highway Traffic Accidents Alert: Loading up for Back to College (Aug. 2009)

Sources:

Federal and State Efforts Related to Accidents That Involve Non-Commercial Vehicles Carrying Unsecured Loads (Report Highlights)
GAO-13-24, Nov 15, 2012

HIGHWAY SAFETY: Federal and State Efforts Related to Accidents That Involve Non-Commercial Vehicles Carrying Unsecured Loads (Full Report -- PDF)
United States Government Accountability Office, Report to Congressional Committees. Nov. 2012

April 16, 2013

Maryland Observes Work Zone Safety Month, as Road Construction Swings into Gear

The sight of orange cones and barrels marking work zones on Maryland highways is so common, drivers don't think too much about them. That's part of the problem. The Maryland Department of Transportation estimates that an average 2,237 traffic accidents occur in or around Maryland work zones every year, resulting in 1,250 people injured and 11 people killed.

Nationally, some 700 people die each year in motor vehicle crashes occurring in road work zones. The road construction workers are themselves at risk, often operating machinery just a few feet from speeding traffic. (Sad case in point: Two Pessoa Construction Company workers were killed in a work zone crash in Cecil County, Maryland earlier this year.) Police on detail are also at risk of being struck by passing vehicles.

But the national figure of 700 people killed in roadside work zone crashes are mostly drivers or passengers travelling in motor vehicles on roads and bridges under construction. An estimated four of five people killed in work zone accidents are motorists, not highway workers.

Maryland observes Work Zone Safety Awareness Month in April. As road construction season begins, the state DOT offers a few tips for drivers:

Seeing Orange. Cones and barrels are placed in the roadway for a reason--not as an obstacle course for Maryland's hurried drivers. When you encounter these in your travels, expect a work zone around the corner.

Slow Down. Stay Alert. Work zones often funnel traffic into a reduced number of lanes, requiring lane merges. Plan ahead so you're not jockeying with other motorists to merge into travel lanes that are rapidly narrowing. Drive defensively!

Minimize Distractions. Remember texting while driving and using handheld cell phones are both illegal in the State of Maryland!

Stay Informed. Plan Ahead. Dial 511 for the latest roadway closures and delays in Maryland, or visit the Maryland 511 website. Avoid a mad rush -- and a traffic accident -- by knowing when and where road construction is occurring and altering your travel route accordingly. Speed is a factor in motor vehicle accidents, and wherever you need to get to on time isn't worth risking life and limb.

Related Maryland Car Accident Attorney articles:

Maryland Car Accident Death Rates Down, But Many Traffic Safety Challenges Remain (Jan. 2012)

Baltimore Traffic Accident Prevention: Speed Cameras May Snap Offenders at Schools and Construction Sites (July 2009)

Sources:

MARYLAND PARTNERS IN NATIONAL LAUNCH OF
WORK ZONE AWARENESS WEEK IN WASHINGTON, D.C

Maryland Dept. of Transportation April 16, 2013

Driving Safely in Work Zones
Maryland Dept. of Transportation, State Highway Administration

Related Web Resource:

Maryland State Highway Administration -- Planned Lane Closure Updates

March 15, 2013

Maryland Among Top 10 States for Motor Vehicle Theft

Baltimore car accident injury lawyers like us know all too well from our work with clients: Anything can happen when you pull out of your driveway and hit the road in Maryland. Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents can and do happen, often without warning. And, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), your vehicle itself is more at risk in Maryland as compared to the majority of states.

NHTSA reports that Maryland is among the top 10 states for motor vehicle theft. In fact, Maryland ranks number 8 on the government's list of states where your car is more likely to not be there when you return to it. The states with the most stolen vehicles are…

1. California
2. Florida
3. Texas
4. New York
5. Illinois
6. Georgia
7. New Jersey
8. Maryland
9. North Carolina
10. Nevada

What's more, NHTSA reports that a motor vehicle is stolen every 43 seconds in the U.S. The most popular vehicle stolen? According to 2008 theft rate data: It's the Dodge Charger. American cars are popular targets for car thieves. The top 10 cars stolen are, according to NHTSA, the Dodge Charger, Pontiac G6, Chevy Impala, Chrysler 300, Infiniti FX35, Mitsubishi Gallant, Chrysler Sebring, Lexus SC, Dodge Avenger, and Kia Rio.

The top two months for vehicle theft are July and August, and 40 to 50 percent of vehicle theft is due in part to "driver error." How many times have we read in The Baltimore Sun or other Maryland newspaper that someone's car was stolen with the keys left in the car? In addition, thieves are interested in what's in the car -- from loose change to laptops to iPods to GPS devices. And some cars make for easy parts in illegal "chop shops," which are then sold illegally. Air bags have become a popular item for thieves, and anyone who's had one ripped out of their car knows they are not inexpensive to replace.

Maryland vehicle thefts jumped by 143 percent between 1984 and 1994, prompting the formation of the Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council. See link below to PDF of the group's report on car theft prevention in Maryland -- along with statistics on when, where, and how car theft in Maryland occurs. For example, the Council reports that…

"…vehicle thefts often occur in two distinct areas that conform to a time frame. In most circumstances, thefts occur either in residential areas in the late evening and early morning hours, or in commercial areas in the midday hours. In both cases, the perpetrators easily elude observation."

So watch where you park -- not only in Baltimore City but anywhere you travel in Maryland. This includes at home and at work. Don't leave your car in a secluded or dark area that provides easy cover for thieves. Don't leave valuables in your car. And for goodness sakes, lock your car! The days of leaving cars and homes unlocked without worry are, sadly, in the past.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney articles:

Maryland, Do You Drive 65? Highway Speeds Rising, National Survey Shows (Feb. 2013)

Maryland Drivers – Are You Asleep at the Wheel? 4 Percent of Drowsy Driving Survey Respondents Said "Yes" (Jan. 2013)

Sources:

NHTSA / SaferCar.gov: Vehicle Theft Prevention

Maryland Vehicle Theft Prevention Council (homepage)

2010 ANNUAL REPORT OF THE MARYLAND VEHICLE THEFT PREVENTION COUNCIL (PDF)

February 5, 2013

Maryland, Do You Drive 65? Highway Speeds Rising, National Survey Shows

The speed limit in Maryland is 65 mph for both rural and urban interstate highways. Despite posted speed limits, there always seem to be plenty of drivers who tear down the highway -- with no regard for the law or other motorists' safety. Speed is a factor in many of the serious Maryland traffic accident cases we handle here at our Baltimore County personal injury law practice.

If it feels like speeding on U.S. interstates and highways has ramped up in recent years -- it's not your imagination.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported on a recent survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which found 14 percent of motorists exceed the posted speed limit by at least 10 mph on limited-access highways. (Known in some states as freeways or expressways, limited-access highways have on and off ramps, are generally separated from residential properties, and have barriers separating traffic traveling in opposite directions.)

This was the first time NHTSA has collected nationally representative estimates of travel speeds on public roads for all types of motor vehicles. The survey found that from 2007 to 2009, the percentage of vehicles exceeding the speed limit on limited-access highways jumped by 23 percentage points. That's a lot of drivers deciding they need to get where they're going faster than their state traffic laws allowed.

While the numbers of drivers exceeding the speed limit on other types of roads fell slightly from 2007 to 2009 -- NHTSA still found that 13 percent of vehicles on major arteries and 15 percent on minor arteries went over the speed limit by 10 mph in 2009. (Arterial roadways are high-capacity urban roads that deliver traffic from "collector roads" to freeways.)

NHTSA released its survey results with the note that increased travels speeds may be due to differences in data collection periods. With the recession affecting highway travel in some areas, some drivers may have been inclined to speed on roads that were less congested. The challenge in collecting data stems in part from the fact that states are no longer required to submit speed data to the Federal Highway Administration. The 1995 repeal of the national maximum speed limit did away with that.

Maryland's 65 mph speed limit on highways is modest compared to the legal speeds in other states. A 75 mph speed limit is not uncommon on rural interstates (e.g., in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, and Maine) -- while Texas tops the speed charts for the nation with 85 mph legal on some parts of certain highways. The IIHS frowns on this, stating that when speed limits go up, so do motor vehicle crashes and deaths.

As Baltimore County auto accident injury attorneys who work with injured people and grieving families, we've seen the terrible toll that speeding can take. Drive the speed limit, and drive defensively. Maryland isn't Texas -- but our dangerous, aggressive drivers still pose a hazard on the Baltimore Beltway and our interstates.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney article:

Maryland Motor Vehicle Accidents : NHTSA Releases Statistics, Types, and Causes for 2010 (Sept. 2012)

Sources:

Freeway speeds rise as more drivers exceed posted speed limits (PDF)
IIHS Status Report, Vol. 47, No. 8, p. 6

National Travel Speeds Survey II: 2009
Huey, R., De Leonardis, D., & Freedman, M. (2012, July). National travel speeds survey II: 2009. (Report No. DOT HS 811 638 ). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nti/pdf/811638.pdf

Maximum posted speed limits
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Feb. 2013


January 7, 2013

Maryland Drivers – Are You Asleep at the Wheel? 4 Percent of Drowsy Driving Survey Respondents Said "Yes"

Federal regulations require drivers of large commercial trucks, including tractor trailers, to get a certain amount of sleep between shifts, to avoid falling asleep behind the wheel and causing serious truck accidents. No one wants to think that the 18-wheeler roaring up behind them on the Baltimore Beltway might be piloted by a driver who is about to fall asleep.

But what about all the other motorists with whom we share Maryland's back roads and highways?

A new study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals something alarming: 1 in 24 drivers admit to driving drowsy, including actually nodding off behind the wheel. ABC News reports that "…based on a survey of nearly 150,000 drivers in 19 states and D.C. … sleepiness aggravated by shift work and snoring can be as risky as alcohol, slowing reaction times and impairing decision-making behind the wheel."

(Note: "Shift work" refers to jobs that demand workers change normal sleep patterns, such as security guards, factory workers, and others who work overnight or late night shifts. Snoring has also been found to inhibit a good night's sleep, which could contribute to the problem of drowsy driving.)

As Baltimore auto accident injury lawyers, we've seen what can happen when a drunk or impaired driver looses control of their vehicle. Maryland was one of the states polled in the CDC study – and 4 percent of Md. survey respondents admitted to drowsy driving. That's worse than our neighbors in Washington, DC, where 2 percent of those surveyed said they drove in a sleep deprived mode.

ABC News reports that according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a full 2 percent of motor vehicle accidents in the US involve drowsy driving. What's more, a separate study revealed drivers may suffer from a condition known as "microsleep" – falling asleep behind the wheel for seconds at a time, possibly multiple times while driving.

Public health and traffic safety advocates fear that drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving. Liberty Mutual Research Institute estimates that a quarter million US drivers drive drowsy every day. New estimates reveal that drowsy driving is the second leading cause of fatal motor vehicle crashes, second only to drunk driving. NHTSA estimates more than 6,000 people are killed every year due to drowsy drivers.

While we can't control the behaviors of others behind the wheel, Maryland motorists can do a few things to stay safe on the road:

> Plan long trips in advance and build in rest time. Avoid "driving all night" to "make good time." A rest break could save your life and those of other innocent motorists around you.

> If you have miles to go before you sleep, consider putting them off and sleeping instead.

> Report any drivers you observe swerving into other lanes or otherwise driving erratically to Maryland police by dialing dial #77 for non-emergency situations and 911 for true emergencies.

> The saying "Friends don't let friends drink and drive" can be adapted and applied here. "Friends don't let friends drive drowsy."

Wake up Maryland drivers! Awareness can go a long way to addressing this public health and traffic safety concern in Maryland and around the US.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney Article:

Working Overtime : Drowsy Driving a Serious Risk for Truckers and Other Maryland Motorists (Nov. 2011)

Sources:

1 in 24 in US Drives Drowsy, CDC Says
ABC News Jan. 5, 2013

'In the Blink of an Eye': Dozing While Driving
ABC News Jan. 3, 2013

Drowsy Driving — 19 States and the District of Columbia, 2009–2010
CDC Weekly January 4, 2013 / 61(51);1033-1037

December 28, 2012

A Review of Maryland Traffic Laws (Which Some Drivers Tend to Forget)

As 2012 draws to a close, it's worth taking a look at a few Maryland traffic laws and procedures. Maryland has received generally good grades from traffic safety advocates. This past year, more counties installed traffic light speed cameras in hopes of deterring accidents at intersections and in school zones. Maryland Highway Patrol is out in force every holiday, seeking to stop and arrest drunk drivers. A new law has been proposed that would add teeth to existing Maryland DUI/DWI laws, targeting offenders who drive drunk with children in the car.

However there's still room for improvement; 493 people were killed in Maryland motor vehicle accidents in 2010 and thousands more injured (Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts Maryland 2006 – 2010).

As Baltimore County, Maryland accident injury lawyers, we keep track of existing and new state traffic laws, as they may apply to the cases we handle for clients. Maryland has contributory negligence laws on the books, so if you as an injured party broke any traffic laws when your auto accident occurred – your eligibility for compensation and/or damages may be challenged.

Maryland drivers sometimes forget the traffic laws they learned in drivers' education class. Here are just a few you may or may not remember…

  • Maryland has banned the use of hand held cell phones while driving (albeit as a secondary offense, i.e., they must be stopped for some other infraction), and all texting while driving is illegal (a primary offense, i.e., drivers may be stopped for texting).
  • Penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) in Maryland include 45 days administrative license suspension for first offense (which may be modified if driver demonstrates hardship), and ignition interlock devices. However penalties do not include vehicle forfeiture for multiple offenses. (Traffic safety advocates frown on that practice.)
  • Maryland has a universal motorcycle helmet law, requiring all motorcycle drivers and passengers to wear helmets. Operators are also required to wear protective eye wear.
  • Maryland adopted a "move over law" in 2010, requiring drivers who see police or other emergency responders at the side of the road to slow down and safely move over one lane – to avoid roadside collisions. Ironically, our neighbors in Washington, DC, where federal laws are made, have no move over law on their books.
  • Young drivers in Maryland who operate motor vehicles during intermediate or restricted licensing stages must obey night time driving restrictions (between midnight and 5 a.m.).
  • Maryland drivers age 40 and older must take a vision test at every driver's license renewal.
  • Motorists who experience trouble on Maryland highways should dial #77 for non-emergency police assistance. 911 is reserved for true emergencies.

Remember – When it comes to saving lives, traffic laws are only as good as the driving public's willingness to abide by them. Accidents still happen. As we always say, drive defensively. Have a safe and happy New Year.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney article:

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

Sources:

Maryland State Highway Safety Laws Summary
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Maryland Traffic Safety Laws
Maryland Dept. of Transportation : State Highway Administration

Move Over America

November 30, 2012

Maryland Lawsuits and Contributory Negligence : Soccer Injury Lawsuit Could Bring Change for Accident Victims

A Howard County soccer player's injury lawsuit being tried in the high court in Maryland could help accident victims fare better in personal injury lawsuits. However, a Maryland lawmaker may propose a bill to block any changes to the existing laws. At the center of the controversy is something we Baltimore car accident injury attorneys are quite familiar with: The Maryland contributory negligence law.

Maryland is one of four states and the District of Columbia that have a "contributory negligence" law on the books. What this means for you, as an accident victim, is if you're found to be even a tiny fraction at fault in an accident (e.g., a traffic crash or other accident), your insurance claim can be flat out denied and/or you could lose your lawsuit, at trial.

However the Maryland contributory negligence law is now being challenged in the high court. The Washington Examiner reports that, "A case before the Maryland Court of Appeals could change the requirement, making it easier for accident victims to sue -- a change that victim advocates are cheering on."

The case involves Kyle Coleman, a then 20-year-old soccer player who received serious head and facial injuries when a bar from a collapsed soccer goal fell on him. The player sued the Soccer Association of Columbia, Md., which was running the practice when he was injured. Attorneys for the defendant argued that because the plaintiff was swinging from the goal (a practice the association warns against) and had allegedly smoked marijuana earlier in the day, he was not eligible for compensation.

The Baltimore Sun reported in Sept. that "…a Howard County jury found the association was at fault in Coleman's injury because it did not properly secure the goal. But because the jury also found that Coleman was at least partly responsible for the accident, he did not receive any payout." An attorney representing the injured soccer player and chairman of the Maryland Association for Justice Political Action Committee reportedly called contributory negligence unfair.

Now the case is playing out in the Court of Appeals – challenging Maryland's longstanding contributory negligence law. If the case brings about changes in the law about who can sue whom, victims' rights advocates will be pleased. However state Del. Ben Kramer, D-Silver Spring, Maryland, says if that happens, he will propose a bill in January to keep the laws on the books as they stand.

Baltimore County accident injury lawyers like us see scenarios with contributory negligence play out time and time again – including in motor vehicle accidents. Say a pedestrian is struck down in Baltimore City by a speeding vehicle and suffers broken bones and internal injuries. A clear cut case, right? Not if the pedestrian was crossing the street NOT in a crosswalk. That can count against the individual and reduce or eliminate any compensation he or his family might receive in a lawsuit.

It might not seem fair, but according to the law in Maryland, that's the way it is. As injury lawyers, we fight hard to obtain the maximum amount of compensation and damages possible for our clients – including in the face of Maryland's often harsh contributory negligence law. We will watch for the outcome of this case in Howard County, Md., and whether it brings about changes to the law.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney article:

Maryland Medical Malpractice and Negligence: How Do I Know If I Have a Case? (Oct. 2009)

Sources:

Maryland lawmaker hopes to prevent change making lawsuits easier
The Washington Examiner Nov. 27, 2012

Soccer field accident could remake Maryland personal injury law
Court of Appeals considers allowing injured people to win damages even if partly at fault
The Baltimore Sun Sept. 18, 2012

November 15, 2012

Maryland MVA Offers Thanksgiving Travel Trips, as AAA Predicts Uptick in Traffic

Thanksgiving holiday traffic has become legendary in Maryland. Baltimore car accident injury lawyers like us appreciate the travel headaches -- and increased risks for motor vehicle crashes -- that Maryland motorists endure over Thanksgiving week. Driving this time of year requires planning, patience, and a steady hand at the wheel.

Thanksgiving is the most heavily travelled time of the year in the U.S. We have Baltimore County commuters who work Thanksgiving Eve hitting the roads at the same time as thousands of families are embarking on their holiday road trips. The combination of frazzled commuters trying to get home from work jamming our roadways -- along with students, families, visitors, and others trying to get where they need to go -- means long traffic delays and short tempers.

Throw unpredictable Northeast weather into the mix and it's a wonder anyone leaves home at all. That said, the folks at the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) offer a few common sense tips for people who will be driving on Thanksgiving:

  • Make sure your car is tuned up and in good shape for a road trip. Check your tires, headlights, windshield wipers, brakes, and fluids before you hit our Maryland roadways.

  • Make sure everyone buckles up their seat belts.

  • Observe Maryland laws for proper restraint of children and infants in car seats.

  • Obey speed limits.

  • Don't drink and drive.

  • Don't engage in distracted driving behaviors such as texting (which is illegal in Maryland) and cell phone use (handheld cell phone use is a secondary offense).

AAA predicts a modest uptick in national Thanksgiving holiday traffic this year – due in part to lower gas prices and a slowly recovering economy. AAA predicts 43.6 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home over the holiday. A report on Weather.com stated that AAA was uncertain how damage caused by super storm Sandy might impact travel in the Mid-Atlantic region. Either way, advanced planning is always a good idea.

The Washington Post offers a guide to regional roadways and suggests Thanksgiving routes in and out of the region. If you're among the millions of holiday celebrants traveling by car this year, give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Don't try to break any land speed records driving in Maryland. Plan out your route, keeping in mind that other drivers will take the same "short cuts" you're planning to use. Be safe out there this Thanksgiving. You'll have plenty of company on our Baltimore County, Md. roadways.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney Articles:

Maryland Foul Weather Driving Safety Tips : Stay Off the Road, and If You Must Drive – Prepare First, and Drive Defensively (Oct. 2012)

Maryland Among States at Highest Risk for Auto Crashes with Deer (Oct. 2012)

Maryland Seeks to Add More Teeth to Distracted Driver Laws (May 2012)

Sources:

Thanksgiving Travel Tips from Maryland MVA

Thanksgiving Travel Forecast: Gridlock Ahead
Weather.com Nov. 13, 2012

Thanksgiving getaway guide: Advice for long-distance travel from D.C.
The Washington Post Nov. 10, 2012

November 12, 2012

Maryland State Agencies Named in Negligence Lawsuit over Car Accident Death at Hatem Bridge : Trial Underway in Bel Air, Harford County

The father of a young girl killed in a 2001 motor vehicle accident on Hatem Bridge is suing the State of Maryland for negligence. Despite numerous roadblocks delaying legal proceedings, and the passage of more than a decade, the trial finally got underway this month in Harford County Circuit Court.

According to The Baltimore Sun, the fatal auto crash took place in 2001 on the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge in Havre de Grace, Md. News reports state that the crash took place on Aug. 10, 2001, during heavy rain. A 12-year-old girl and her step father were driving west on the bridge on Route 40 over the Susquehanna River. The man's pickup truck reportedly hit water and hydroplaned, swerving into traffic and hitting a Jeep Cherokee. The young girl was killed and the pickup truck driver was pronounced deceased at a Harford County, Md. hospital.

In 2004, the father of the young girl killed in the crash filed a lawsuit against three Maryland state agencies, claiming they "failed to use reasonable care to protect the public" by installing a dividing barrier on the four-lane bridge. Named in the lawsuit are the Maryland Transportation Authority, the Maryland Department of Transportation, and the State Highway Administration.

Harford County, Maryland car accident injury lawyers may advocate for families in cases where a loved one is injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash. In addition to the two fatalities in this unfortunate case, two other accident victims were injured. The Baltimore Sun reported that one injured accident victim has already been called to testify and describe what she remembers from the day of the crash.

From a legal standpoint, this case is notable as the State of Maryland is named in the lawsuit. The Baltimore Sun reports that attorneys representing the state assert that bad weather conditions – not the design or maintenance of the bridge roadway – led to the fatal pickup truck accident that day in 2001.

This sad case illustrates what we Maryland auto accident injury attorneys know from experience: Accidents can and do happen in an instant. It will be interesting to see how this particular case plays out in Harford County Circuit Court – and whether the State of Maryland is held responsible in the motor vehicle accident death.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney articles:

Queen Anne's County Maryland Wrongful Death Lawsuit : Family Awarded $100K in Chesapeake Bay Bridge Fatal Truck Accident Case (Sept. 2010)

Maryland Foul Weather Driving Safety Tips : Stay Off the Road, and If You Must Drive – Prepare First, and Drive Defensively (Oct. 2012)

Sources:

Trial in Hatem Bridge fatality suit continues this week
The Baltimore Sun Nov. 12, 2012

Trial of 2004 lawsuit over Hatem Bridge fatal accident finally under way in Bel Air
The Baltimore Sun Nov. 8, 2012

October 30, 2012

Maryland Foul Weather Driving Safety Tips : Stay Off the Road, and If You Must Drive – Prepare First, and Drive Defensively

Hurricane Sandy showed us how quickly weather conditions can go from bad to worse to downright dangerous on Baltimore County, Maryland roadways. Despite weather forecasts and state advisories for motorists to stay off the roads, there are always a few souls who venture out onto the roads into a storm. The combination of wind, rain, water soaked roads, downed trees and power lines, and motorists rushing to get home is a recipe for disaster.

Baltimore County, MD car accident lawyers like us advocate for families when a motor vehicle accident with injury or death happens. We've heard so many sad "if only" stories. "If only we hadn't gone out that night.…" "If only he'd slowed down.…" "If only we'd taken a different route.…" The best driving tip for Maryland motorists facing a hurricane or winter storm is stay off the roads. Not only are you putting yourself and other motorists at risk – you may be getting in the way of emergency vehicles attempting to clear roads, repair power lines and assist injured or stranded people.

If you absolutely must drive in foul Maryland weather, drive slowly and defensively. Listen to news reports and plan the safest route possible. You do not want to become part of a sea of cars stranded in a flood or snowstorm. Hurricanes create flooding and ponding on roads that can cause cars to "hydroplane" – that is skidding on top of a film of water. This is a nerve-wracking experience for anyone who's ever lost control of their car on slick roads, even briefly. Hydroplaning vehicles can leave their lanes and cause head-on collisions and other serious auto accidents.

A number of driving safety websites (see links below) offer tips for drivers to get through bad weather conditions on the road. It's worth a read to prepare for a situation that calls for a calm, controlled response. Whether driving in a rain storm, a hurricane, or snow storm in Maryland, some very basic driving and auto maintenance tips apply:

--Drive slowly and defensively, especially around curves. Maryland motorists rushing to get home in a storm, particularly on our winding back country roads, can lose control taking curves too fast.

--If you skid or hydroplane, don't panic. Yes, this is easier said than done. Read the driving safety tips below to learn more about how to safely steer and brake during a skid or while hydroplaning.

--Keep tires well maintained. Your tires are the rubber than come between you and the roadways in Maryland. Keep them properly inflated and rotated per the manufacturer's recommendation. Watch for signs of wear and replace old tires.

--Keep brakes well maintained. Anti-lock brake systems (ABS) have greatly enhanced auto safety. If you firmly apply your ABS brakes during a skid, the computerized programming will pump the brakes for you in a controlled manner designed to safely slow the car down. Like tires, brakes are only as good as the maintenance that keeps them in good repair and functioning.

--Replace worn windshield wiper blades. This small piece of automotive equipment makes a big difference if you're trying to see through sheets of rain. Replace wiper blades that are beginning to fray at the ends.

The foul weather season in Maryland has started off rough with Hurricane Sandy. There could be more bad storms this fall, and we have a long winter ahead of us. Keep your cars and trucks well maintained and drive defensively.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney articles:

Baltimore County Winter Driving Safety : Is Your Car a Moving Igloo After a Maryland Snow Storm? (Jan. 2011)

Car Accidents with Farm Equipment on Public Roads in Maryland: When Lifestyles and Vehicles Collide (Dec. 2010)

Sources:

Driving Safety Tips: Skidding and Hydroplaning in Rainy Conditions
The Weather Channel

Driving in Bad Weather
Allstate

Tips for Safe Driving
Maryland Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA)

Maryland Traffic Information
Federal Highway Administration

September 15, 2012

Maryland Motor Vehicle Accidents : NHTSA Releases Statistics, Types, and Causes for 2010

That old saying “Accidents can happen to anyone” unfortunately applies to motor vehicle accidents in Maryland. Baltimore County car accident injury attorneys like us know this from working with injured clients and grieving families. Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents can happen in an instant, without warning, and lives are changed forever.

You can drive defensively, obey the speed limit, wear your seat belt, keep your cell phone off, not drink and drive – do all the right things to stay safe on Maryland’s highways, streets, and back roads. But all it takes is one aggressive or reckless driver to cause a serious Maryland auto accident with injuries or fatalities.

In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released motor vehicle fatality statistics for 2010. NHTSA reports that in Maryland, 493 traffic accident fatalities occurred in 2010. While this represents a 10 percent decrease compared to motor vehicle crash deaths in 2009, that number still means too many people left home and didn’t return again.

What kinds of motor vehicles are involved in most Maryland traffic accidents? These are some of the motor vehicle accident statistics and characteristics recently released by NHTSA.

Maryland Traffic Accident Fatality Rates for 2010
NHTSA reports that in Maryland, 493 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents in the year 2010 (the most recent year for which data is available). Of those 493 people killed…

43.2 % were drivers
17.8 % were passengers
16.6 % were motorcyclists
20.5 % were pedestrians
1.6 % were pedalcyclists (bicyclists)

…and the remaining fraction of a percentage were categorized as Other/Unknown.

These 493 Maryland traffic fatalities involved a total of 687 vehicles. Of those…

47.9 % were passenger cars
31.4 % were light trucks
5.5 % were large trucks (a/k/a commercial trucks)
12.2 % were motorcycles

…and the remaining 2.9% were classified as Other/Unknown.

These statistics show that drivers of passenger cars comprise a large percentage of all Maryland auto accident deaths. What may come as a surprise is that pedestrian accident deaths account for fully one-fifth of all Maryland traffic crash fatalities – occurring at a higher rate than motor vehicle passenger deaths.

As Baltimore personal injury lawyers, we know that behind every auto accident death statistic is a personal story of loss. We are here to assist clients who have been injured, or whose family members have been killed, in Maryland auto accidents. While Maryland has made strides in reducing traffic accident fatalities, any accident death on our highways, roads, or city streets is one too many.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney Articles:

Baltimore, Maryland Auto Accident Liability : Civil Lawsuits vs. Criminal Cases

Maryland Teen Driver Safety : Fatal Auto Accident Rate Increases When Young Passengers Ride with Novice Drivers (June 15, 2012)

Source:

NHTSA TRAFFIC SAFETY FACTS : 2010 Data (PDF doc)
State Traffic Data, August 2012
U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA),
DOT HS 811 646

August 24, 2012

How Side Impact Auto Accidents Can Happen at Baltimore, Maryland Intersections

The Baltimore car accident injury lawyers here at The Law Offices of Butschky, Ehlers & Butschky assist victims and their families when a motor vehicle crash with injury or death occurs in Maryland. One of the more severe types of car, truck, and SUV accident cases we handle are what's known as side-impact crashes.

Also called broadside accidents or T-bone crashes (in reference to the hard right angle at which one of the cars involved in the accident is hit), these serious, and sometimes deadly traffic accidents often occur at intersections.

Imagine you're driving along, minding your own business, obeying Maryland traffic laws. You stop at an intersection in Baltimore City, and wait for your red light to turn green. The light turns green, you start across the intersection, and out of nowhere -- another driver runs his or her red light and hits your vehicle, broadside. We know from experience that these types of auto accidents often cause very serious injury, including brain, spine, and neck injuries.

Some causes and characteristics of side impact collisions in Baltimore County, Maryland include the following:

  • A driver runs a red light or stop sign at a four-way intersection and crashes into another vehicle broadside.

  • Drunk driving may be a factor, as can be distracted driving, such as someone texting while driving, even though that is illegal in Maryland.

  • Speeding can be a factor, making the impact of the broadside crash that much more severe.

  • Intersections on high-speed roadways, including secondary roadways and Maryland back roads, are particularly dangerous. A driver going 40 or 45 mph on a back road who fails to stop for a STOP sign and tears through an intersection can cause a deadly broadside accident.

  • Drivers stopped in the roadway, attempting to make a left-hand turn may get rear-ended AND broadsided. Say a driver is stopped in the middle of an intersection with his or her directional on, waiting to make a left turn down a side street. Another driver rear-ends that car, pushing the turning vehicle into oncoming traffic, where it gets broadsided.

  • Side impact crashes tend to happen at city and suburban intersections, but they can happen on highways such as the Baltimore Beltway. Every driver has a blind spot. You could get sideswiped on a Maryland highway by a lane changer whom you didn't see or who didn't see you as they cut in and out of traffic at a high rate of speed.

  • A head-on collision is also very serious and sometimes fatal. However modern vehicles come with driver and passenger airbags now, offering some protection in head-on crashes. In addition, the vehicle engine is a several-hundred pound block against the perpetrator's oncoming vehicle. However cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs tend to offer less standard protection for side-impact crashes. Side air bags may be optional, as are door reinforcements. However the car door is a relatively thin piece of metal compared to a car, truck, or SUV coming at you broadside.

NOTE: We've seen reckless speeding and driving to endanger firsthand, going to and from our suburban Baltimore County headquarters in Sparks, Maryland. Newcomers to Maryland who think they are safe driving around the suburbs, don't be fooled! It's amazing how fast Maryland drivers tear around these back roads, which were not designed to handle today's volume of commuter traffic heading in and out of Baltimore City. The best defense against a broadside accident is to drive defensively, and look both ways before proceeding through an intersection -- even if you have the right of way.