August 30, 2011

Maryland Motorcycle Accident Fatalities : The Statistics Tell Part of the Story

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

June 7, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Maryland Motorcycle Accident Attorney article:

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


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

May 1, 2010

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

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)

December 21, 2009

New Year's Eve and Other Holiday Drunk Driving Car Accidents in Maryland

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

November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Traffic Accidents a Concern for Maryland Police: Add Increased Travel, Alcohol & Wildlife to the Mix

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

October 7, 2009

Deterring Baltimore County Traffic Accidents: Speed Camera Laws Go Into Effect

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

School speed cameras get Balto. County nod Sept. 9, 2009

Related Web Resources

Legislative Session 2009, Legislative Day No. 13
Bill No. 61-09 (PDF file)

Safe Speed - Automated Enforcement Program
Baltimore County, Maryland

Baltimore County Police Department: Speed Cameras

September 2, 2009

Labor Day Weekend Crackdown: Maryland Drunk Driving Accident Prevention

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

August 12, 2009

Maryland On Foot: Avoid Pedestrian Accidents with These Safety Tips

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

August 4, 2009

Maryland Distracted Driving Alert: Texting Ups Car Accident Risk Significantly

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

July 21, 2009

Baltimore Traffic Accident Prevention: Speed Cameras May Snap Offenders at Schools and Construction Sites

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

June 22, 2009

Baltimore Drivers Ranked Among the Most Courteous in the Nation

A national survey conducted by auto club AutoVantage rates Baltimore, Maryland, as the USA's no.-3 most courteous city to drive in. Does this surprise you? Or sound about right? The top city was Portland, Oregon, followed by Cleveland, then our beloved city.

The AutoVantage survey was conducted to determine the causes of road rage, which can lead to car and truck accidents, personal injury, and wrongful death on the road. New York City ranked no. 1 for having the angriest and most aggressive drivers, unseating long-time champ Miami, which had topped the list for the past 4 surveys. NYC was followed by Dallas Fort Worth and Detroit as the places with the worst road rage.

The survey found that the top causes of road rage were other drivers driving badly (i.e., speeding, tailgating, failing to use turn signals, cutting each other off, or close-shave lane changing), talking on cell phones, and making obscene gestures. Other causes included bad weather, road construction, or simply people who are tired, angry, stressed, in a hurry, or otherwise "having a bad day." That pretty much covers just about everyone on the road, wouldn't you say? Yet Baltimore's courteous drivers have made the national news. Go Baltimore!

Baltimore car accident attorneys like us often see the worst in the area's drivers when we go to court to fight for clients who've been hurt in accidents due to the negligence or recklessness of others. It's good to hear positive news like that reported in the survey.

So let's give Baltimore drivers a hand for being so courteous. But still watch it out there when you're driving on our roads and highways and bridges: it's the minority of drivers who are rude, aggressive, angry -- and worse -- who can cause trouble leading to serious Baltimore County and other Maryland car crashes.

AutoVantage Road Rage Survey Reveals Best, Worst Cities
The Auto Channel June 16, 2009

Top Road Rage Cities: Baltimore Is Charming June 16, 2009

May 21, 2009

Maryland Car Bike Accident Injures Two on Bike to Work Day

According to the Annapolis, Maryland police, two bicyclists were hospitalized last Friday for injuries suffered in an Anne Arundel County bicycle-car accident. The accident took place when a motorist parked on Main Street in Annapolis opened his car door into the path of the oncoming cyclists. One injured cyclist was taken to Anne Arundel Medical Center and the other to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

The accident occurred on Bike to Work Day, a national and regional event to promote bicycling as an alternative means of transportation. The event attracted more than 1,000 riders in Baltimore. An experienced Maryland car accident lawyer helps families of a bicyclist injured or killed in a traffic accident determine if they have a legitimate claim against the operator of a motor vehicle.

Maryland Bicycle Traffic Accident Statistics and Helmet Laws
As we've discussed in the past, when motorcycle accidents occur on Maryland's highways and roadways, the operator is often at a huge disadvantage when a car, SUV, or truck accident occurs. Bicycle riders are at a disadvantage for many of the same reasons that put motorcyclists at risk: it takes them longer to brake and stop, they are more exposed to weather conditions and obstacles in the roadway, and when they are involved in a traffic accident, they are physically vulnerable to catastrophic injuries.

In 2007, 698 bicyclists died due to injuries suffered in accidents on our nation's roadways, accounting for 2 percent of all traffic fatalities. Of the 614 Maryland traffic deaths that occurred that year, 7 were pedacyclists. (Source: NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2007 Data: Bicyclists and Other Cyclists.)

The Maryland Bicycle Helmet Law "requires all bicyclists under the age of 16 to wear a bicycle safety helmet when riding on public property." Certain counties in Maryland have their own laws. For example, in Montgomery County, the law applies to riders under 18, and in Sykesville, Maryland, bicyclists of all ages must wear a safety helmet.

2 bicyclists hospitalized after accident in Annapolis May 15, 2009

Bike to Work Day attracts record number of riders May 15, 2009

Related Web Resources

Maryland’s Bicycle Helmet Law

Baltimore Metropolitan Council: Bike to Work Day 2009

April 14, 2009

Baltimore County Motor Vehicle Accidents: Fatalities Down for Cars & Trucks (But Up for Motorcycles and DUIs)

Last week, NHTSA announced that projected numbers of motor vehicle fatalities across the U.S. in 2008 will fall to a near 50-year low (the actual counts will be released this August). A continued drop in Maryland traffic accident deaths is expected, in keeping with trends across the country. Let's look at some Maryland car crash statistics available today:

  • In 2007, a total of 614 people died in motor vehicle accidents in Maryland, down from 650 fatalities in 2003.
  • Of those 614 fatalities, 179 involved alcohol-impaired driving and 216 involved speeding.
  • More people died in urban traffic accidents (369 deaths) as compared to rural locations (245 fatalities) in Maryland in 2007.

Baltimore County, Maryland Traffic Accident Statistics
The NHTSA website allows visitors to research Maryland traffic deaths by years, county, and type of accident. Let's look at Baltimore County, for example.

  • In 2007, Baltimore County traffic accidents caused 72 fatalities, as compared to 86 deaths in 2003.
  • Single-vehicle crashes caused 45 deaths in 2007, down from 51 deaths in 2003
  • Large truck accidents caused 6 deaths in 2007, down from 8 deaths in 2003
  • 17 pedestrians died in motor vehicle accidents in 2007, down from 21 in 2003
  • Motorcycle crash fatalities increased, up from 7 deaths in 2003 to 13 deaths in 2007
  • Alcohol-impaired driving deaths also went up, from 24 in 2003 to 31 in 2007

Public safety programs and laws measure their effectiveness with statistics. So any time the numbers of traffic fatalities go down, we know something is working. But what we've also learned as Baltimore County car accident lawyers is that behind the stats are people. For every single traffic fatality there is a story of somebody going somewhere who didn't make it. Fewer deaths on Marylands roads and highways is always good news. But like we've said before, even one motor vehicle accident death is too many when it's someone you love (or you).

NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts for Maryland 2003-2007

NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts for Baltimore County 2003-2007

Related Web Resource

Baltimore County, MD, Government Home Page

March 25, 2009

Maryland Motorcycle Helmet Law Debate

Some Maryland motorcycle riders would like the state to relax its mandatory helmet law, which was enacted in 1992 to decrease the rate of Maryland motorcycle crash fatalities. Senator John Astle (D-Annapolis), who is himself a biker, is behind the latest push in the General Assembly to allow exemptions to the helmet law for some cyclists.

Sen. Astle presented a proposal to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in Annapolis, Maryland, earlier this month which would allow a helmet law exemption for motorcycle riders aged 21 or older who have been licensed to operate a motorcycle for at least two years, or who have completed a safety course approved by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation or the Motor Vehicle Administration.

Maryland Fatal Motorcycle Crash Statistics
According to the Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program, motorcycle crashes are on the rise, up from 1,749 in 2005 to 1,804 in 2006. This rise in fatal motorcycle accidents in Maryland corresponds with national statistics: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcycle operator deaths have increased an alarming 138 percent -- amounting to 4,155 fatalities in 2006, up from 1,742 deaths in 1997 (NHTSA, "An Analysis of Motorcycle Helmet Use In Fatal Crashes," Aug. 2008).

Maryland is one of several states with a mandatory helmet law for all motorcycle operators. Bikers who want the law relaxed say helmets encroach on their personal freedom. Those who object to changing the Maryland motorcycle helmet law say not only does it save lives, but it cuts down on the costs and burden incurred by the insurance industry and the health care system when motorcyclists involved in crashes suffer serious injury or death.

The Maryland motorcycle helmet law is challenged every year in the legislature. The argument for maintaining the law may seem obvious to those of us who prefer to drive with four tires on the pavement beneath us: Motorcyclists are at a significant physical disadvantage when involved in a crash with other motor vehicles. An experienced Maryland personal injury lawyer looks at the details surrounding a motorcycle accident to determine who may be at fault and whether there is a compensable case to pursue.

Motorcyclists: 'Let those who ride, decide' March 16, 2009

Related Web Resources

Motorcycle Safety Foundation

Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program: Choose Safety for Life

February 19, 2009

Maryland Car Accident Emergency Responses Questioned after Fatal State Helicopter Crash

Have you ever been stopped in highway traffic while a medical helicopter lands to transport victims of a Maryland car crash to the hospital? It's a heart-stopping sight, and we can only hope that the helicopter gets the victims to the hospital in time. Now Maryland lawmakers are reevaluating the state's emergency medical services since a crash involving a state helicopter claimed four lives last fall.

The Maryland State Police medical helicopter program has been under scrutiny since a Sept. 27, 2008 crash killed four people in Prince George's County, Maryland. The helicopter was on its way to a hospital 25 miles away when it was diverted to Andrews Air Force Base in foul weather and crashed -- killing the pilot, a paramedic, a medical technician, and one of the car accident victims. An 18-year-old injured in the Charles County Maryland traffic accident survived the helicopter crash. Legislation is now being proposed that would separate Maryland law enforcement from rescue functions.

The subject of medical helicopter accidents has received national attention lately, as such accidents have been on the rise since the 1990s due in part to the closing of emergency rooms in rural areas and an aging US population. National and state safety officials are reconsidering whether some patients would be safer and just as well served by using regular ground ambulance transports. Triaging methods used by emergency responders are also being questioned.

Members of the National Emergency Medical Services Pilots Association attended a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearing in Washington, DC, earlier this month, to discuss ways to prevent such tragic accidents. The NTSB reported 28 deaths in seven fatal medical helicopter accidents last year -- up from seven deaths in two crashes in 2007. Wrongful death lawsuits can follow such accidents, e.g., if the air medical transport companies are found to be negligent in the maintenance and repair of their aircraft.

MedEvac System Works for Marylanders Feb. 14, 2009

Md. EMS Is Pressed To Share Triage Study
The Washington Post Feb. 2, 2009

Medevac Helicopter Crash Kills 4 in Maryland Sept. 28, 2008

Related Web Resources

Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems

National EMS Pilots Association

NTSB Helicopter Emergency Medical Services

February 1, 2009

Buying Auto Insurance in Maryland (Part 2): Uninsured & Underinsured Motorists

Last month, we discussed why the minimum Maryland auto insurance liability coverage of $20K per person/$40K per accident, mandated by law, is risky business for anyone who drives more than that "little old lady who only drives to church on Sundays" that used car salesmen used to be so fond of. We recommended increasing your liability coverage to as much as your budget can afford, in the event you're liable in a Maryland auto, truck, or motorcycle accident where people in the other vehicle get hurt and you get sued. The other type of auto insurance required of all drivers under Maryland law is Uninsured Motorist coverage.

Uninsured and Underinsured Coverage for Maryland Auto Accidents
As a Baltimore Maryland injury lawyer, I've seen far too many personal injury cases where good people got caught up in a bad situation because they were involved in a Maryland car crash and they didn't have enough auto insurance -- and neither did the other driver. Or maybe the other driver didn't have any insurance at all, which is common in Maryland.

Liability insurance protects the other guy if you're found to be at fault in a Maryland car, truck, or SUV accident that causes personal injury. Uninsured Motorist coverage or "UM" is that same protection but flipped around to protect you. Say you're driving around, not doing anything wrong, and out of the blue -- somebody hits you. And that other driver doesn't have any auto insurance. Your own insurance company will stand in the shoes of that person and put on the negligent driver's hat, and will negotiate with you (and your Maryland car accident lawyer, if you retained one) -- just like the other driver should have. That's what UM coverage provides.

Minimum UM coverage required in Maryland is the same as liability insurance: $20K per person /$40K per accident. UM insurance also includes UIM coverage -- Underinsured Motorist -- where your insurance company will stand in for underinsured drivers as well. Say you get rear-ended by that nice little old lady and you need a back fusion, and you have a third-of-a-million-dollars in bills -- and she has minimum coverage, $20,000. You would receive her $20K, but then your insurance company would be responsible for the balance, up to the amount of coverage that you purchased. That's where we see UM insurance come into play all the time. If 10 percent of Maryland drivers are uninsured, a full third are tooling around Maryland with lousy coverage. So if you get hit by one of those guys, you won't be bound by their lower coverage if your UM has higher limits.

Liability and UM are usually bound together, so if you purchase $100,000 liability coverage, that's the most UM you can get. We recommend Maryland drivers get between $100K and $500K liability and UM. It's all about preparing for what we all hope and pray never happens. But if you are in a car accident in Maryland where personal injury occurs -- having more than the minimum car insurance helps protect your hard-earned personal assets.

Next installment of "Help! I've Been in an Accident!": Buying Auto Insurance in Maryland (Part 3): PIP or Med-Pay, Rental, and Umbrella Coverage.

Related Web Resources

Maryland Insurance Administration:

A Consumer Guide to Auto Insurance

Other consumer publications for autos, motorcycles, and RVs

January 7, 2009

Maryland Car Accident Witnesses and Insurance Companies: A Race Against Time

If you've had the misfortune of being in a car crash in Baltimore Maryland or anywhere in the Mid Atlantic region, you may have suffered physical injuries and your car may be banged up, even totalled. On top of those damages -- you're in a race against time. My last two blog entries for "Help! I've Been in an Accident!" dealt with what you should keep in your glove box (Dec. 18) and why you should always call the police (Dec. 22). This article offers some insight on witnesses and insurance companies.

Ask Witnesses for Their Phone Numbers on the Spot
It's amazing how frequently people change their stories. If you're in a car accident in Maryland and other people pull over, remain calm. NEVER GET UPSET. Approach the witnesses and say, "Listen, you saw what just happened. I really might need you. Could I please have your name and number?" Most folks will agree to that.

Human nature is an amazing thing. Most of the time, when people react to an emergency, they'll do the right thing. They'll run into a burning car to save a stranger. But after someone witnesses a car or truck accident, a funny thing can happen. When time passes, people start logically thinking, "Oh crap. I'm gonna end up being the key witness in the middle of a six-month jury trial." Human nature's better side starts to fade away and people become reluctant to "get involved" as time passes. It's imperative, in an accident, to get the facts -- whatever they are, good or bad -- locked in right away before people have a chance to think too much. Get witnesses' information, then...

Call Your Insurance Company and a Maryland Car Accident Lawyer
Maryland insurance carriers have their car accident response routine down to a science. As soon as an accident is reported, outside adjusters -- many of them retired police officers or state troopers -- hit the ground running to evaluate what happened. You've seen these folks driving around in the Geico and Progressive cars. They will bang on your door and they can be a little bit intimidating. What they're doing is the same thing really that we're doing as Maryland auto accident attorneys -- they're going out to get the facts quickly and to lock in the story.

Nobody wants anybody to lie, but it really is a foot race when there's a car, truck, or motorcycle accident in Maryland. Time is not on your side. You may not know it, but the other party's insurance company is busily working and contacting people to swing the odds in their favor. It's very important to contact an experienced car accident lawyer who can work with your insurance company and get started right away fighting for you.

December 22, 2008

Maryland Car Accident Lawyer Advises: Always Call the Police from the Scene

As someone who's been a Maryland car accident attorney for much of my career, I understand the stress my clients feel when they've been in a car, truck, SUV, or motorcycle accident in or around Baltimore and the Mid Atlantic region.

A motor vehicle accident ruins your day. It's shocking, nerve wracking, and can cause personal injury and wrongful death. Even in the best-case scenarios where the driver walks away uninjured from the crash, the emotional and mental stress takes its toll. And sometimes when the driver walks away OK, the vehicle isn't as lucky. Damages can be costly and repairs can be time-consuming.

So I understand why, when an auto accident happens, sometimes people just want to get the heck out of there. The flight response kicks in. But let me give you some advice that could save you time, money, aggravation -- even your life: ALWAYS call the police from the scene of an auto accident in Maryland or wherever it happens. Even if the other driver says, "Let's just exchange information and not call the police." Bad idea. Here's why:

  • The police serve as a buffer between you and the other driver. People get hot under the collar after an accident and can become irrational and even violent. There are maniacs out there and people with guns and weapons in their vehicles. You don't know who just hit you or vice versa. Dial 911 from your cell phone and get the police on the scene asap.

  • The police keep everyone honest. There are usually two sides to every story and every car accident. Let the police ask the questions and sort out what happened. The other driver may not be as honest as you and may not have the proper documentation in his or her vehicle.

  • Ask the responding police officer to file a report. Even if the officer opts not to do this, he/she will provide you with an information exchange sheet, which will contain details and relevant information which you would perhaps neglect to get yourself. If you've been in an accident, you are probably in a fog and you may not remember details after the fact (see my "Just in Case" blog entry of Dec. 18, 2008 on taking pictures and notes at the Maryland car accident scene). Let the police do their job to document the incident.

The unexpected can and does happen on Maryland highways and roads. If you're in a car crash in Maryland, resist the knee-jerk reaction to just "exchange information" with the other driver and book it out of there. That person may be uninsured and may not even give you their correct name and phone number. Call the police. It's their business.

Next installment of "Help, I've Been in An Accident!": Witnesses, insurance companies, and lawyers (Oh My!).

Related Web Resources

Maryland State Police

Baltimore Police Department

December 10, 2008

Accused Maryland Driver Walks in Fatal Motorcycle Accident Case: Court Scheduling Error Blamed

Charges against a Port Republic, Maryland driver blamed in a fatal motorcycle crash were dropped Nov. 5, because the State Trooper who made the traffic violation charges against her was not present at the trial due to a court scheduling error.

In Calvert County District Court, Sarah E. Brown, 50, faced charges of negligent driving, failure to yield right of way, and failure to secure a child under 8 in a safety seat in a collision on Aug. 1 that killed motorcycle rider Larry G. Hogan II, 43.

Also a resident of Port Republic, Maryland, Hogan worked for Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative for over two decades. He volunteered for the Dunkirk and St. Leonard fire departments and he enjoyed bowling. He was also a motorcycle enthusiast. Hogan was riding his motorcycle when motorist Sarah E. Brown turned her vehicle left onto Broomes Island Road and failed to yield to the motorcyclist. Hogan's bike hit the rear of her vehicle and he suffered fatal injuries.

The case went to trial Nov. 5 in Calvert County District Court. But Judge Robert Riddle dropped the charges against Brown when Maryland State Police Trooper David Saucerman -- the charging police officer in the case -- failed to show up in court. Apparently the Annapolis District Court, which notifies police officers of trial dates, made a misprint that listed Brown's court date as Jan. 5, and not Nov. 5. Calvert County State's Attorney Laura Martin promised the victim's family she would review the prosecution charges. Mr. Hogan's grieving family must be wondering, "How can this happen?"

I wish that I could say that this is the first time that we have seen this type of confusion on the part of the courts and investigating police. Unfortunately, it is usually the innocent victim and their families who suffer as a result of this neglect. In Maryland civil matters, it is the injured individual (the Plaintiff) who has the burden of proving his or her claim. While this District Court error does not bar the family from suing civilly, it certainly will not help the civil case. The lesson to be learned here is that one must be proactive with all parties involved in matters such as this, including the courts and authorities. One phone call to the courts or the police officer could have avoided this result.

Charges dropped in death of biker: Scheduling confusion kept officer out of court
Nov. 7, 2008

Driver not sentenced in motorcycle death due to court scheduling error Clutch & Chrome Nov. 18, 2008

Related Web Resources

Motorcycle Safety Foundation: For Car Drivers

Maryland State Police

December 3, 2008

Hagerstown Maryland Motorcycle Accident Death: Pickup Truck Driver Gets 10 Years for Vehicle Manslaughter

A Washington County Circuit judge has sentenced a Smithsburg, Maryland man under an Alford plea to 10 years in prison for manslaughter by vehicle, resulting from a fatal motorcycle crash that occurred in Hagerstown on May 25, 2008.

Debra Reed Fields-Jordan of Boonsboro, Maryland was riding her motorcycle east on Md. 77, cruising down the road to a hamburger stand in Thurmont, Maryland. Tragically, this 35-year-old wife and mother of five children never made it to her destination.

A pickup truck heading south on Pleasant Valley Road driven by Harry William "Billy" Shrader Jr. ran a stop sign at the intersection with Md. 77. Fields-Jordan, who had the right of way, crashed her motorcycle into the pickup truck on the passenger side. The truck went into a tree and the driver fled the scene. Shrader -- who had a list of previous convictions including two DUIs, driving impaired, and possession of drugs -- was arrested a short time later. He had been using hallucinogens at the time of the truck motorcycle accident and said he couldn't remember what happened.

In a separate case, Shrader was sentenced to two 15-year sentences for a burglary case tried in October. He will serve the sentences concurrently, with all but seven years suspended. That means in addition to the manslaughter conviction, Shrader will serve 17 years and is eligible for parole.

Under the Alford plea, the defendant is not required to admit to guilt but acknowledges that the state of Maryland has enough evidence for a conviction. A civil lawsuit filed in August by the victim's family in this wrongful death case alleges "cruel and inhuman treatment and wanton wrongs, with malice" resulting from Shrader's intoxicated driving and failure to stop at a stop sign. The deceased woman's husband, Stephen J. Jordan, is seeking $4 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages.

Smithsburg man gets 10 years in vehicle manslaughter case The Herald-Mail, Nov. 17, 2008

Man sentenced in motorcycle death, Nov. 17, 2008

Related Web Resources
American Motorcyclist State-by-State Motorcycle Laws

Maryland MVA: 2008 Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program