Maryland Injury Attorney Blog

Articles Posted in Motorcycle Accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that Maryland motorcycle traffic accident deaths reached a five-year low in 2009 — at 69 motorcycle crash fatalities in 2009, compared to 91 deaths in 2008, and 96 deaths in 2007. Data is still pending for 2010, although preliminary data released by the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) showed an uptick in motorcycle accident deaths in Maryland for the first nine months of 2010.

Other statistics of note, from the GHSA report:

> Motorcycle traffic accident fatalities for all of 2010 nationwide are expected to be 4,376 or fewer — a decrease of at least 2% from the 4,465 fatalities of 2009.

> The year 2009 saw an encouraging decline in motorcycle accident deaths nationwide — down by 16%. Prior to 2009, the US experienced 11 straight years of increases that more than doubled motorcyclist fatalities from 2,116 in 1997 to 5,312 in 2008. The GHSA credits the reduction in biker road deaths to state helmet laws, law and traffic enforcement, motorcycle operator training programs, and increased public awareness regarding driving safety.

> The GHSA study looked at the first nine months of the year. Maryland had 59 motorcycle accident deaths in the first nine months of 2009, and 61 motorcycle accident deaths for the same months in 2010. The numbers could go up as data for the remainder of 2010 become available.

> Use of DOT-compliant helmets dropped alarmingly in 2010, down by 13% nationally. Helmets can protect motorcyclists from suffering deadly and debilitating head injuries in traffic crashes.

(Maryland, it’s worth noting, is among 20 states and Washington, DC, that have universal motorcycle helmet laws on the books. Some states only require helmets to be worn by younger riders and passengers, while still other states have no helmet laws at all. Helmet use remains higher in states with universal helmet laws, not surprisingly.)

Experienced Baltimore County motorcycle accident lawyers know from their work with Maryland clients — motorcycle accident injuries can be devastating, and fatal. Motorcycle operators and passengers are physically more vulnerable when a traffic accident with a car, SUV, or truck occurs. Single-vehicle motorcycle crashes — where the motorcyclist loses control of the bike and strikes the pavement, highway barrier, trees, or other objects — also account for a large percentage of motorcyclist accident deaths (44% reported by NHTSA in 2005).

The GHSA theorizes that increased motorcycle travel could account for why the reductions in motorcycle accident fatalities have levelled off. The GHSA concludes, “To prevent an increase in motorcyclist fatalities in 2011, states should work to increase helmet use, provide motorcycle operator training to all who need or seek it, and reduce motorcyclist alcohol impairment and speeding.”

Traffic accident statistics help law enforcement and public safety advocates get a picture of what’s working to save lives, from state to state. But statistics don’t always reveal the human side of the story. A Maryland motorcycle accident attorney knows from work with bereaved families — even one motorcycle crash fatality is one too many. Given Maryland’s alcohol-related traffic fatalities increased in 2009 (up to 162 deaths in 2009, compared to 145 deaths in 2008) — we still have plenty of work to do when it comes to making Maryland roads and highways safer for automobiles, pedestrians, and motorcycles.


NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts Maryland: 2005 – 2009 (PDF)
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Motorcyclist Traffic Fatalities by State: 2010 Preliminary Data (PDF)
Governors Highway Safety Administration
Fatal Two-Vehicle Motorcycle Crashes (PDF)
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Sept. 2007
Related Web Resource:

Maryland Choose Safety for Life Campaigns : Motorcycle Safety

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

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

Maryland news media report that three fatal motorcycle accidents have occurred in recent weeks in the state, now that the weather is warm and more motorcycles are on the road.

According to Southern Maryland Online, a motorcycle accident that occurred on April 17 in the area of Prince Frederick, Md., is believed to have caused fatal injuries to a 53-year-old biker who died shortly after the motor vehicle accident. Police investigators reported that the operator lost control of his Harley Davidson motorcycle and struck a tree. While the man seemed uninjured by the crash and did not seek immediate medical attention, he was later found unresponsive in his home and was brought to an area hospital, where he died. The cause of death of this motorcycle accident victim remains under investigation.

Brain injuries can result from motorcycle and other car and truck accidents, and the severity of those injuries may not always be apparent immediately after the accident — particularly if the person who has suffered a head injury is able to speak after the crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that head injury is the number one cause of death of motorcycle riders involved in traffic accidents.

Maryland Motorcycle Accident Deaths Decline by 20 Percent
This same news source reports that two other fatal motorcycle accidents occurred in Southern Maryland in April. This comes on the heels of a new report out of Washington, D.C., that nationally, motorcycle accident deaths have declined by 10 percent — the first decline, in fact, since 1997. According to a Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report, nationally, motorcycle fatalities have declined from 5,290 in 2008 to 4,762 or fewer in 2009.

Motorcycle safety regulations such as the helmet law in Maryland are given credit for saving lives, though the report states that the sagging economy may be keeping more recreational motorcycles parked in their garages and off the road.

The GHSA report looked at motorcycle accidents in 39 states over two nine-month periods, Jan. through Sept. 2008 and 2009. Preliminary data shows that in that period, Maryland had 52 motorcycle accident deaths in 2009 compared to 72 motorcycle crash fatalities in 2008, representing a 20 percent decrease. Though as any Maryland motorcycle accident lawyer knows, any death on our roads and highways is one too many. We support the safety laws in Maryland such as the universal helmet law that help save lives and keep people out of our hospital emergency rooms.

So now that the weather is nice and people are traveling more in Maryland and beyond, remember — that motorcyclist you see cruising down the highway is 37 percent more likely to be killed in a traffic accident than you, if you’re driving a car, truck, or SUV. (Source: NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts: Motorcycle Helmet Laws 2008.)

St. Leonard Man Dies, Motorcycle Accident Injuries Believed Cause
Southern Maryland Online April 19, 2010
Motorcyclist Traffic Fatalities by State: 2009 Preliminary Data (PDF)
Governors Highway Safety Association
Related Web Resource

NHTSA: Motorcycle Safety Program (portal)

With the holiday season in full swing, everyone is scrambling. There’s last-minute shopping, preparing for holiday parties and feasts, wrapping up year-end projects at work — and increased travel by air, rail, and road. Unfortunately, drunk driving car accidents are also part of the holiday picture in Maryland and around the country.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that state law enforcement across the country will be cracking down on drunk drivers this holiday season, with the “Over the Limit, Under Arrest” campaign. People who overindulge in alcohol at family gatherings, work parties, New Year’s Eve celebrations, and other holiday get-togethers pose a risk of serious personal injury (including debilitating brain or spine injury) or death to themselves and others. Nationally, 13,470 people were killed in 2006 in alcohol-related traffic accidents.

Maryland Drunk Driving Statistics and Holiday Traffic Accidents
Baltimore County, Maryland car accident lawyers know the human stories behind the statistics. In Maryland, 189 people died in drunk-driving accidents in 2006. And while the Maryland state rate of drunk-driving accident fatalities has been on the decline in recent years (178 deaths in 2007 and 152 in 2008 — a decline of 12.5%), we know that even one death is one too many. (Source: NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts Maryland, 2004 – 2008).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nationally, more fatal drunk-driving car crashes occur at night (36%) and on the weekend (31%) — just when holiday parties are most likely to be held. In Maryland, we have snow, ice, and the rest of winter’s fury adding to the hazards on our roads and highways.

So please: Drive sober, within the speed limit, and defensively this holiday season — and be alert if you’re coming home from a party. The night-time fatal drunk driving accident rate is four times higher than the day-time rate (9%). That’s a sobering figure to keep in mind when you’re driving to or from your destinations this holiday season. (Source: Traffic Safety Facts 2006 Data, Alcohol-Impaired Driving, NHTSA)

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Announces Intensive Holiday Drunk & Impaired Driving Crackdown & Advertising Blitz
NHTSA Press Release, Dec. 7, 2009
Fatalities and Fatality Rates in Alcohol- Impaired-Driving Crashes by State, 2007-2008 (download PDF)
NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts: Research Note, Dec. 2009
Related Web Resources

Over the Limit, Under Arrest 2009 Campaign
Maryland Department of Transportation: Traveler Alerts

This Thanksgiving, as is the case every holiday season, law enforcement will be on the lookout to pull over speeders, reckless drivers, and drug- and alcohol-impaired drivers to prevent Maryland car accidents.

Though 2008 saw a decline in Thanksgiving travel, gas prices have stabilized to a level more drivers can live with, and the AAA predicts an uptick in holiday travel this year. That means more cars on Maryland’s roads and highways as people travel to and from our fair state to visit family. Other factors contributing to danger on Maryland roadways this holiday season:

> County and wildlife experts report that deer-vehicle collisions in Maryland occur in the thousands every year. Exact numbers are hard to gauge, as it’s unknown how many deer-car crashes occur that don’t get reported. Deer in the roadway are a concern for holiday drivers, particularly as dusk comes earlier with the days getting shorter, and animals are active at dawn and dusk.

> Thanksgiving, football, and alcohol go together like turkey and stuffing. Unfortunately, all that merry-making can turn lethal when someone who’s had too much holiday cheer picks up the keys and hits the road. Fatal drunk driving accidents ended the lives of 179 people in Maryland in 2007 (Source: NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts Maryland 2004 – 2007).

As Baltimore County car accident lawyers, we’ve seen how families can be torn apart when someone drinks and drives on the holiday or any other time in Maryland. A serious motor vehicle accident doesn’t just ruin someone’s holiday dinner. It can end a life or cause permanent, debilitating injury, such as brain and spine injury.

Whether you drive a motorcycle, car, truck or SUV — be safe out there this holiday season and avoid accidents. Take your time, drive defensively, be aware of what’s around you, and don’t give Maryland police a reason to pull you over.

AAA Thanksgiving travel forecast: Highways more crowded on Yahoo! Finance Nov. 18, 2009 Assessment of Deer Vehicle Collisions in Maryland

Related Web Resources

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

St. Mary’s County Dept. of Public Works, Maryland: Deer Safety

The Baltimore County City Council passed an act concerning speed cameras designed to thwart motor vehicle accidents and pedestrian accidents that occur in school zones. Bill 61-09 Speed Monitoring Systems, which went into effect Oct. 1, 2009, authorizes county law enforcement, in consult with other agencies, to use and enforce citations issued by speed monitoring systems in school zones.

The bill defines “speed monitoring systems” as “a device with one or more motor vehicle sensors producing recorded images of motor vehicles traveling at speeds at least 12 miles per hour above the posted speed limit.” Drivers will be subject to a $40 fine. An amendment to the bill limits the number of cameras to 15. The one councilor who dissented felt that more police — not speed cams — was a better way to address the problem.

In addition to the county bill targeting speeders in school zones, a separate state law now allows speed cameras at work zone sites; two have been placed in Baltimore County — one on I-695 at Charles Street and another on I-95 between I-895 and White Marsh Blvd.

Baltimore County car accident lawyers may provide legal assistance in cases where serious car crashes, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and truck accidents occur due to drivers speeding through school and work zones — where people on foot are moving in and out of the roadway.

The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that school zones as well as construction work sites are particularly hazardous areas when motor vehicles travel too fast. The Council estimates that every year, some 15,000 people perish and hundreds of thousands suffer personal injuries due to motor vehicles speeding in these high foot-traffic areas. Children getting on and off school buses are especially vulnerable, as are road workers and police who direct traffic at work sites.

Two speed cameras will operate in Baltimore County starting today Oct. 1, 2009

Related Web Resources

COUNTY COUNCIL OF BALTIMORE COUNTY, MARYLAND Legislative Session 2009, Legislative Day No. 13 Bill No. 61-09 (PDF file)

Safe Speed – Automated Enforcement Program
Baltimore County, Maryland

Labor Day traditionally heralds the end of summer. It’s an opportunity for family and friends to get together one more time before diving back into the fall season’s school-and-work grind. Not surprisingly, this long holiday weekend typically sees a spike in alcohol-related traffic accidents nationwide.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) / National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is ramping up its public awareness safety campaign in an effort to reduce the number of Labor Day car, truck, and motorcycle accident injuries and fatalities. Called “Drunk Driving: Over the Limit, Under Arrest,” the campaign brings together law enforcement and public safety advocates to drive home the message that drunk driving is not an accident, nor is it a victimless crime.

The DOT reports that last year, 40% of all fatal motor vehicle accidents that occurred over Labor Day weekend were due to drinking and driving. Law enforcement will be cracking down on impaired driving this holiday weekend for drivers of all types of vehicles including motorcycles, cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks.

NHTSA reports that in 2007, some 13,000 people were killed in highway crashes involving drivers or motorcycle riders whose blood-alcohol levels were .08 or higher, above the legal limit set in all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico. The agency wants to get the message across that drunk driving deaths can be prevented if people take precautions, such as designating a sober driver when they plan on consuming alcohol.

Maryland Drunk Driving Fatality Statistics
In Maryland, 179 people died in 2007 in alcohol-related traffic accidents. Though any death due to drunk driving is one death too many, the number in Maryland is down from a five-year high of 211 drunk driving deaths in 2004–in part thanks to law enforcement and public awareness safety campaigns such as this one (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts Maryland 2003-2007). Too often, Maryland car accident lawyers witness how families’ lives are changed forever when a party-goer drinks too much and gets behind the wheel. Be safe this Labor Day weekend. It’s supposed to mark the end of summer — not someone’s life.

Stop Impaired Driving: Campaign Headquarters

Law Enforcement August/Labor Day Crackdown: Fact Sheet

Related Web Resources

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD):
Law Enforcement Officers Prepare for Labor Day Weekend

Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP):
Sober Ride Program

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), of the 614 Maryland car accident deaths that occurred in 2007, pedestrian deaths numbered at 116. That’s 116 people who died trying to get to where they were going on foot — whether it was to school, to work, to the store, to walk the dog, or to visit a neighbor or friend. Maybe some were just trying to get home. They didn’t make it.

For the same year (2007), across the U.S., 4,654 pedestrians died and an estimated 70,000 or more were injured in motor-vehicle related pedestrian accidents. (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts: Maryland 2003-2007)

As experienced Maryland pedestrian accident lawyers, we know what can happen when walkers find themselves in the wrong place, at the wrong time — in the path of an oncoming vehicle.

We’ve seen many different circumstances where car, motorcycle, SUV, and truck accidents turned even more tragic when people on foot got critically injured or killed in Maryland traffic mishaps. NHTSA recommends many of the same “common sense” methods our mothers taught us for keeping safe when traveling on foot:

1. Cross at intersections. Most people who are hit by cars are struck when they are not in a crosswalk. Some municipalities will fine drivers who fail to stop for and give right of way to pedestrians in a crosswalk.

2. Use crossing signals. They’re there for a reason. A stop light can be your best defense against being struck by a motorist who is on their cell phone with the stereo blaring, tearing down the road after a nerve-wracking day at work.

3. Look left, right, AND left again. THEN cross. Remember what mom said about looking both ways? Do it, then look left again before setting foot into the roadway. Motorists are in a terrible hurry these days. In a split second, particularly if you’re crossing a curved road, a car can be fast upon you on the left — a driver that doesn’t expect to see a pedestrian in the road.

4. Make eye contact with drivers. Even drivers stopped at a stop light or stop sign. Some drivers who are not paying attention may try to make a right-hand turn after you’ve entered the crosswalk. There’s also the problem of motorists running yellow lights or making “rolling stops” and going through stop signs. A crosswalk will not save your life if the driver still doesn’t know you’re there. Making eye contact is a smart safety measure.

5. Wear light-colored clothing. Have you ever had to slam on your brakes because you were driving at night, and suddenly a pedestrian appeared seemingly out of nowhere? Don’t assume drivers can see you at night, even on city streets. Carry a flashlight if you have to walk on rural, poorly lit roads.

NHTSA reports that in 2007, most traffic-related pedestrian fatalities took place in urban areas (73%), in normal weather conditions (90%), at night (67%), and where people were not crossing in intersections (77%). Most victims were male. (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2007 Data: Pedestrians) Children and the elderly are particularly at-risk populations for traffic pedestrian accidents — topics we will cover in future blog entries.

Remember, even better than “walking away from an accident” is avoiding one in the first place. That’s true for pedestrians as well as motorists.

NHTSA Pedestrian Safety Portal

Related Web Resources

Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee

Have you ever traveled on the Baltimore Beltway or another Maryland roadway and noticed your fellow drivers engaging in activities other than steering the 4,000-pound SUV beneath them? Car crashes caused by drivers reading the newspaper, fiddling with the stereo, putting on makeup, and chatting on cell phones — only to lose control of their vehicles or miss a road obstacle and crash — are sadly, nothing new.

Now we traffic-frazzled Maryland commuters can add texting to the list of distracted-driving activities that can cause serious car, SUV, motorcycle and truck accidents. Highways aren’t the only places texting poses a risk — a teenager texting a friend while driving down their quiet neighborhood street could cause a fatal car pedestrian accident.

A recent study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded that texting (i.e., typing and sending messages on a cell phone or wireless hand-held device) while driving is even more dangerous that previously thought, and that texting has indeed become the most dangerous of all distracted-driving activities.

Maryland traffic accident lawyers like us see the worst of what happens on the state’s highways and roadways. We know too well that even normally good drivers can cause a car, truck, or motorcycle accident by being distracted, even for an instant. Some states, such as Virginia, have banned texting while driving.

Though the Virginia Tech study focused on long-haul trucks (outfitted with video cameras for research purposes), they believe their findings apply to all drivers — not just commercial truck drivers. Over 18 months, the video cams recorded that in the moments before a crash or near-miss traffic accident, the truck drivers looked down at their texting devices for nearly 5 seconds — enough time at highway speeds to cover the length of a football field. We’ve said it before, and it’s worth repeating: Drive carefully out there. Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road — and your fellow drivers.

Texting Raises Crash Risk 23 Times, Study Finds
The New York Times in Yahoo! Finance July 28, 2009
Related Web Resource

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

State and city officials are looking at ways to curb Baltimore, Maryland car accidents caused by speeding. In May, Maryland legislators passed a law which allows speed cameras to be posted within one half mile of schools and construction sites. Now the Baltimore City Council has voted an initial thumbs-up to installing speed cameras in those vulnerable places. If the measure passes, the speed cameras could start going up around Baltimore construction sites and schools by October.

Maryland law requires that signs be posted alerting motorists that the speed cameras are in use. Speed cameras snap photos of license plates of motorists going more than 12 miles per hour above the posted speed limit. A $40 ticket would then be sent to the address connected to the vehicle’s license plate registration. The hope is the cameras will deter speeding drivers, who can cause fatal Maryland traffic and pedestrian accidents.

Baltimore and Maryland Speeding Fatalities
According to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, 216 speeding-related fatalities occurred in Maryland in 2007. There were 47 Baltimore city traffic deaths that same year, and 72 traffic fatalities for all of Baltimore County. (Source: Traffic Safety Facts Maryland, 2003-2007, NHTSA)

A Maryland accident attorney may assist families in car, truck, and motorcycle accident cases where personal injury or death may have occurred due to someone else’s reckless or impaired driving. In 2008, the National Safety Council (NSC) announced that it endorses automated enforcement measures to reduce traffic accidents nationwide, including the use of red-light cameras and speed cameras.

The NSC reports that school zones, construction work sites, and railroad crossings are particularly vulnerable when motorists run through red lights and exceed the speed limit. The safety advocacy group estimates that 15,000 people die every year and hundreds of thousands suffer personal injury due to motor vehicles speeding in these areas. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to raise awareness of speeding as a public safety issue. Many motorists who believe “everyone speeds” don’t think they will get a traffic citation if they’re only driving 5 or 10 MPH above the posted speed limit.

Baltimore speed-camera measure advances July 8, 2009
Speed Cameras’ Image Enhanced
Senate Revives Bill to Allow Use of Technology Beyond Montgomery The Washington Post, April 3, 2009
Related Web Resources

NHTSA: National Forum on Speeding

Wikipedia: Traffic enforcement camera