Lagging Maryland Traffic Laws, Increasing Bike Usage Make Car-Bicycle Traffic Accidents More Possible, Deadlier

It won’t be long before the promise of spring weather entices more and more cyclists out onto the roads in and around cities like Annapolis, Bethesda and D.C., among others. As Maryland traffic accident injury attorneys, the staff at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC can see a shift toward greater environmental consciousness, so it’s not surprising that more people are using bicycles to get to work, school or even to the store for some light shopping.

Unfortunately, even though more riders are out on the roads, our traffic laws and driver awareness are apparently behind the times. What does this mean in terms of increased traffic accidents and bicycle riding injuries? According to a recent editorial, the percentage of people using bikes for transportation has been on the rise for nearly 20 years, with no expectation that this trend will change any time soon.

To accommodate this increase in two-wheeled traffic, engineers and traffic planners have been working to update the state’s infrastructure and to encourage cycling and create a more safe environment for autos and bikes to coexist. There has also been a call for improved and updated legislation as well.

According to many cycling advocates, some laws unnecessarily restrict safe cycling or where cyclists can ride or park their bikes. There are other laws that haven’t really caught up with current technology, which makes our public roads more dangerous for all users. There is also a cry for increased protection for those more vulnerable users or to punish negligent car and truck drivers.

Some suggest that Maryland replace contributory negligence with comparative negligence. Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia are three of only five “states” that use contributory negligence to establish damage awards in civil cases. Under this standard, if an injured road user was even one-percent at fault for a crash involving another road user that person would be unable to recover damages unless he or she could prove that the other road user had the “last clear chance” to avoid the accident.

Last clear chance involves proving four separate facts about the crash, all of which must be true, and can be difficult to prove. This is why it is always important to have an experience legal professional on your side in personal injury cases.

The majority of jurisdictions around the county use some form of comparative negligence, which allows the injured party to recover some of their loses even if they were partially to blame. Contributory negligence is a favorite of big business and the insurance industry, however it punishes victims who are disproportionately pedestrians and cyclists.

12 ways our region could reform bicycling laws, GreaterGreaterWashington.org, January 22, 2010

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