Which Maryland Traffic Safety Laws Save the Most Lives?

If you grew up in my generation, going for a Sunday drive along Maryland back roads was a leisurely family pastime. We kids piled in the back of the sedan or station wagon, with dad at the wheel and mom riding shotgun. Life was a lot simpler in those days.

Looking back, it’s a wonder more of us weren’t injured or killed in Maryland car accidents. We had none of today’s driving laws or vehicle safety equipment in place. No child or infant car seats, no air bags, no anti-lock brakes, and no cell phones if you did run into trouble. The cars may have had seat belts, but we weren’t required by law to wear them. When it comes to traffic safety and preventing auto crashes in Maryland, we’ve come a long way since we were kids.

Thanks to adoption of traffic safety laws, public awareness campaigns, and vehicle improvements, national motor vehicle death rates are back down to the 1961 level. The U.S. Census reports that in 2009, a total 33,808 persons were killed in motor vehicle accidents in this country. That’s as low as it’s been since the early 1960s. Maryland had 547 traffic deaths in 2009. Still, every one of these Maryland traffic crash deaths means someone’s life was cut short. A family was left grieving.

Baltimore County car crash injury lawyers know that one death on our Maryland roads and highways is one too many. Sadly, many of these deaths could have been prevented — had the responsible drivers slowed down and obeyed the Maryland traffic laws. Now a new report shows how many lives have been saved by traffic laws and vehicle safety equipment in the U.S.

The U.S. Dept. of Transportation estimates numbers of lives saved nationally between 1975 and 2009, thanks to traffic laws and vehicle safety measures. Interesting findings, which apply to Maryland:

  • Safety belts are the number-one life saver. The DOT estimates some 267,890 lives were saved during the 30+ year study period, because drivers and passengers simply buckled up. That’s an astounding number. What’s more, study authors estimate an additional 363,552 lives could have been saved if 100% people had used their seat belts.
  • Motorcycle helmets reduced the number of people killed in motorcycle crashes by 31,985. An additional 28,169 motorcycle operators or passengers could have survived had 100% helmet use been in place.
  • Legal drinking age of 21 saved 27,677 lives.
  • Child restraints saved 9,310 lives.

Use caution when you’re out driving on Maryland’s highways, city streets and back roads. While we may have more traffic safety laws and better designed vehicles than in our parents’ day — we also have more traffic and more congested roads and highways. Distracted driving, drunk driving, speeding and teenage driving accidents remain serious risks and challenges for traffic safety advocates and law enforcement in Maryland.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney articles:

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

Maryland Car Accident Statistics: NHTSA Reports Fatalities Down to 1961 Level (April 7, 2009)

Sources:

Fatal Motor Vehicle Accidents — National Summary 1990 – 2009 (PDF)
U.S. Census Bureau 2012, Based on Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Fatality Analysis Reporting System, General Estimates System, 2009 DATA SUMMARY (PDF)
U.S. Department of Transportation, Sept. 2011
Related Web Resource:

U.S. Census Bureau: The 2012 Statistical Abstract: Motor Vehicle Accidents and Fatalities