How can Drivers Share the Road Safely This Summer?May 26, 2021
According to the most recent car wreck data available from the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), more than 111,000 total motor vehicle accidents were recorded over a five-year period. Those accidents claimed more than 500 lives and caused a staggering 48,257 personal injuries.
As public spaces begin to open up across the state and the nation, summer traffic is likely to increase significantly. People are eager to get out of the house and drive, walk, and bike. As summer road trips increase, drivers are reminded to practice safe driving habits and be extra mindful of those who share the road to keep everyone safe and injury-free.
At any speed, a vehicle has the potential to be a deadly weapon. Someone who may be walking or running and hit by a moving car is likely to sustain some type of injury, including the following:
- Cuts, bruises
- Broken bones
- Sprains and strains
- Internal bleeding
- Traumatic brain injury
The faster the car, truck, or van is moving when it makes impact with the pedestrian, the more serious the victim’s injuries are likely to be.
During the summer, people are more likely to walk instead of ride because of the nice weather. Children are out of school, so they are more likely to be walking around. Maryland’s coastal communities, historic sites, and parks will soon be bustling with vacationing families, eager to walk around and take in the sights. All of these factors increase the risk of motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians.
Tips for sharing the road with pedestrians. Fortunately, deadly pedestrian traffic accidents can be prevented. Here are some ways to share the road with walkers and joggers this summer:
- Give pedestrians the right of way in crosswalks. Drivers should approach crosswalks and intersections with caution and allow pedestrians to cross safely to the other side before proceeding. Even if there is no crosswalk, if the pedestrian seems ready to cross, let them. They may make eye contact with the driver to be sure they are aware of them before crossing.
- Never stop in the crosswalk. Stopping in the crosswalk forces pedestrians to cross outside of it, putting them at risk of an accident with another vehicle. Most municipalities have laws making this a fineable offense.
- Drive defensively. Defensive driving is a specific approach to driving that allows drivers to anticipate hazards in advance and react in time to avoid them. Pedestrians can be unpredictable. They may have earphones in and not hear a car approaching. They may try to cross suddenly in front of a vehicle, assuming the driver can stop in time. Some pedestrian accidents involve children who dart out between parked cars or chase a ball that rolls onto the road in front of a moving car. Driving defensively and continually scanning the road ahead and to the side help the driver anticipate these situations and make a mental plan to respond and stop in time.
Riding a bike is a great way to see the neighborhood, spend time with friends and family, and get some exercise. But the risk of injury is obviously much greater than riding in a vehicle. Without the protective barrier an automobile, bicyclists are vulnerable to all of the injuries mentioned above if they collide with a moving vehicle.
A 2018 report from MDOT’s Bicycle Safety Program reported a 20 percent increase in accidents involving bicycles and pedal-cycles over the previous five-year period. At least four out every five accidents resulted in injury or death. June, July, August, and September had the most accidents, and accidents were higher in metropolitan areas including Baltimore and the Washington metro area.
Ways to share the road with bicycles. Maryland’s bicycle safety laws provide clear guidelines for drivers sharing the road with bicyclists. Motorists must yield to bicycles riding in bike lanes and turning. They should not pass any closer than three feet of space next to bicycles and return to their original lane only when they can see the bicyclist in their rearview mirror.
Any driver who fails to yield right-of-way to a bicyclist, causing a wreck where the bicyclist is seriously injured, can face up to $1,000 in fines and three points on their driving record.
Beyond giving bicyclists the right of way, drivers can prevent accidents and save lives. Motorists should also take caution not to open their door when bicycles are passing; make sure the path is clear of bikes before making a turn; and take a defensive approach, scanning ahead to detect a bicyclist’s next move.
Summer is the time for motorcycle aficionados to dust off their bikes and hit the open road. For motorcyclists, nothing beats the rush of driving on the open road with the wind in their hair. But motorcycles are one more potential hazard drivers need to prepare for this summer.
To start, although motorcycles have enough speed to keep up with vehicle traffic, the smaller size of motorcycles makes them harder to see. This is especially true at night. They are more challenging to maneuver and stop quickly during a sudden traffic backup or accidents. They are also difficult to control in bad weather.
How to share the road with motorcycles. Drivers can practice a few fundamental practices to safely share the road with motorcycles. To start, drivers should always check for the presence of motorcycles before changing lanes, merging, or making a turn. Again, they can easily slip into a driver’s blind spot.
Motorists should always maintain at least a four-second following distance between their vehicle and the motorcycle ahead of them. It is a good idea to increase that following distance in poor weather or in bad road conditions. This is a layer of protection in case the motorcyclist stops short or falls off.
Drivers should never share a lane with a motorcyclist. If a motorcyclist enters the driver’s lane, the driver should slow down and move to a lane away from them.
Good Driving Habits to Prevent Car Wrecks in Maryland
Beyond all of these specific tips to share the road this summer, there are a few general safe driving habits every driver should adopt each time they get behind the wheel. Making these a part of one’s driving strategy will go far to eliminate the majority of most preventable accidents, injuries, and fatalities.
- Pay attention. Paying attention means putting down the phone, the makeup, and the sandwich. The only way to avoid an imminent car wreck is to see it coming. Looking away from the road or taking one’s hands off the wheel for just two to three seconds is enough to cause a catastrophic accident. Drivers should ask themselves if that text is really worth it.
- Drive sober. Summer is a time for fun and relaxation. And some celebrations involve alcohol. Driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs is never okay. Certain legal and illegal substances affect the brain and body in ways that make it unsafe to operate a moving vehicle. If a few drinks are part of the plan, drivers should call a ride-share service, a sober friend, or just stay put until sober.
- Slow down. Speed is another major contributing factor to serious car wrecks. Research shows the faster a vehicle is moving when it makes impact, the greater the chance of serious injuries. High speeds also make it more challenging to slow down and stop a vehicle in time to avoid that jogger who crosses the street without looking, or that motorcycle that pulled out without signaling. Drivers should always obey the posted speed limit and go slower in bad weather, at night, or whenever visibility is reduced.
An Important Note
It is not just the driver of a motor vehicle’s responsibility to prevent serious and fatal traffic accidents. Everyone who uses the roadway must adhere to certain rules and laws as well. Local and state laws clearly state the responsibilities of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists utilizing Maryland roads. Everyone plays a role in sharing the road safely and keeping one another safe this summer.
Baltimore Car Wreck Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Pedestrians Injured by Careless Drivers
If you were seriously injured as a pedestrian, bicyclist, or motorcyclist through no fault of your own, contact the Baltimore car wreck lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. When you are hurt, we build a strong case based on the facts to recover compensation for your pain, suffering, hospitalization, surgery, and medication. Lost income and other costs may be compensable as well. To learn more about our experience or to schedule a free case review, call us at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.