Articles Posted in Traffic Safety News

Back in the halcyon days of the automobile, it’s safe to say that many people were more concerned about making way for the new horseless carriages and less worried for the pedestrians who were quickly becoming outnumbered by those new “motor vehicles.” With few vehicles on the roads, traffic accidents were also an infrequent occurrence, though occasionally just as deadly as today’s car, bus and commercial trucking wrecks.

As Maryland personal injury attorneys, we understand how circumstances can place a pedestrian, cyclist or passenger car occupant in a serious traffic accident. While persons who are riding in a vehicle have a relatively good chance of surviving a roadway collision, those on foot or riding a bicycle have the odds stacked against them. Road accidents take many innocent lives every year in cities like Annapolis, Gaithersburg and the District. All we can do is advise caution at all times whenever you are in or near motor vehicle traffic.

For a while now, the planners for Baltimore County have been working on better and safer access for joggers, runners, bicyclists and all other pedestrians who share the road with cars and trucks. With input from numerous private citizens and other concerned parties, the county has been drafting the Western Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Plan.

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For most of us, it likely that we cannot see a day, too soon, that will spell an end to our driving a car to get around. Even for those in there 50s and 60s, we can imagine another couple decades of “automotive independence” ahead of us. But despite eternal optimism, some individuals who are driving today may find themselves with a challenge before long; that challenge may come in the form of a family member sitting down and talking frankly about giving up one’s driver’s license voluntarily.

This discussion is not hypothetical, it happens every day to many people across this country who have reached the point of being unable, either physically or mentally, to control a motor vehicle safely — at least in the eyes of their family; others, who either do not have caring family member living nearby, or through some type of serious traffic mishap, may be forced by the state to relinquish their driver’s license.

For many drivers, it must be said that losing one’s license due to incapacity may be one of the more difficult chapters in the aging process. The term between Maryland driver’s license renewals is what one might call a sweet spot — a time when, as long as we cause no serious car accidents or receive too many citations for traffic infractions — each of us can relax and not worry about being retested until our next operator’s license renewal.

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It only takes a while before one realizes that bicyclists and pedestrians run a greater risk of injury here in Baltimore or over in the District thanks to our highly dense urban conditions and other factors that pit motor vehicles against lightweight bicycles and relatively defenseless foot traffic. As Maryland automobile accident lawyers and personal injury attorneys, we not only read the stories of bicycle and pedestrian accidents, but we also meet people who have been hurt in roadway collisions.

With more and more bikes on the road, it appears that riders in Maryland cities and the District have more worries: Cars, commercial trucks and the roadway itself. According to news articles, bike safety advocates are looking for an increase in cycling-related injury accidents now that warmer weather is here to stay for a while. Closed-head injuries, broken bones, road rash, cuts and bruises are all part and parcel of the dangers facing bicyclists.

Based on information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) there were 11 fatal bicycle-related accidents in Maryland in 2009. Although some would argue that cars, trucks and SUVs may be to blame for the majority of those deaths, experts advise that our roadways are also a major factor in these statistics.

Because of our more and more crowded streets and byways, the risks associated with cycling have grown over time, according to the news. Roads that are teeming with cars and pedestrians might occasionally appear to present the bulk of the problem, but according to many bicycling enthusiasts much of the concern lies with the road itself.

Lack of cycling lanes, like that one Maryland’s River Road just north of the beltway is one example. An inviting sinuous local roadway, River Road only has two lanes — one in each direction — yet no shoulder to speak off and certainly no designated bicycle lane. Cars passing at upward of 50mph can be unnerving even for a seasoned rider. The opportunities for injury or death are numerous.

One thing in cyclists’ favor in Washington, D.C., and Maryland is the law that permits a bicycle rider to use the travel lane at times when the rider can match the “normal speed” of motor vehicle traffic. This can allow a cyclist to ride more predictably within the traffic flow and also avoid shoulder obstacles, like drainage grates and suddenly opening doors of cars parked on the roadside.

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We wrote last year about the tragic death of Natasha Pettigrew, a candidate for U.S. Senate who was struck by a sport utility vehicle during an early morning ride on her bike in Prince George’s County last fall. According to news stories at the time, the 30-year-old woman was training for a triathlon when she was killed in an alleged hit-and-run traffic accident in Maryland’s Prince George’s County.

Recently, Pettigrew’s mother, Kenniss Henry, has taken up crusade to make the streets of Maryland, Washington, D.C., and other areas safer for bicycle riders. According to news article, Henry has lobbied the Maryland legislature in Annapolis to try and get a new bill introduced — the Vehicular Manslaughter Act. Along with advocacy groups like Bike Maryland, Henry is reportedly pushing to close a major loophole in Maryland state law.

According to news reports, the current law essentially says that if a flagrantly reckless, yet sober driver causes a traffic death in Maryland, he or she will pay no more than $1,000 in fines through traffic court. The only other option is for the driver to be charged with a felony (however this typically never happens because the standards of proof are so very high).

Bicycle injury accidents are fairly common in urban areas like Washington, D.C., Annapolis and Baltimore, MD, however, reducing the frequency of car-bike and bicycle-commercial truck crashes is a challenge due to the shear volume of traffic in these areas. As Maryland automobile accident lawyers who represent cyclists and motorcycle riders hurt in traffic collisions, our job is to help these victims recover damages, including medical, rehab, and work-loss costs following a car accident.

Especially for bicyclists, the potential for serious injury, not to mention possible fatal injury due to being hit by a passing motor vehicle, is very high in cities and other urban areas. Being struck and knocked to the ground can lead to broken arms and legs, road rash, cuts and bruises, and worst of all, traumatic brain injury. Wearing a helmet is always a good idea, but is no guarantee of a good outcome.

A while back, we saw a news item that reminded all of us of one key element in hopefully reducing injuries from car-bike collisions. Over in the District, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) has apparently resolved to improve safety for all who travel on public roads. How? A spokesperson for WABA said the group wants cyclists to “better respect the rights of other road users.”

One can assume that WABA hopes passenger car, long-haul truckers, and commercial delivery truck drivers will reciprocate as well. According to the article, WABA had asked its membership to make a New Year’s resolution that includes respecting the rights of others on public roads and to make what the group says is “a good faith effort to follow the law.” This includes, according to the article, yielding the right of way to pedestrians.

The outgrowth of this latest movement apparently came following the death of D.C. resident who was struck by a cyclist the day following Thanksgiving. According to reports, 78-year-old Quan Chu and his wife were hit by bicycle rider while walking in an alleyway near Massachusetts Ave. The elderly gentleman and his wife were both knocked to the ground as a result of the incident. Chu subsequently died from his injuries.

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Cyclists in Annapolis, Baltimore, Columbia and everywhere else across our state can possibly breath a little easier now that the state’s three-foot rule is law. As a Maryland personal injury lawyer representing victims of bicycle-related traffic accidents, I know that several feet may not seem like a lot to some people, but ask most any cyclist and you’ll find they appreciate the extra margin of safety that this new law hopes to provide.

That’s not to say that we have now eliminated any chance of bicycle-related injuries as a result of a car, SUV, pickup or commercial delivery truck accident. Let there be no mistake, cycling enthusiasts and bicycles in general have not become invincible, but they have gained a little more respect on the road, at least in the eyes of the law. Head and spinal injuries, not to mention broken bones, cuts and bruises are all potential injuries when a bike is struck by a car or truck.

According to news articles, it’s been decades since the original “share the road” signs began to appear across the state, reminding Maryland motorists to be mindful of pedal-powered commuters on our public roadways. With the latest law taking effect, that reminder now has some teeth — driver that ignore the three-foot rule could face a fine of up to $500 if they are caught. But will this help reduce fatal car-bike accidents?

Baltimore has become a very popular city with cycling enthusiasts. However, with that popularity comes increasing number of cyclists on city streets, sharing lanes with passenger cars, motor-powered two-wheelers, large SUVs and commercial trucks of all types. Whether you’re an optimist or not, recent data may have bicycle riders grinning ear-to-ear while at the same time looking over their collective shoulders more than ever.

According to Transportation for America (TOA), the pedestrian and bicycle safety organization, over 76,000 Americans have been killed in the past 15 years simply crossing the roads in their very own communities.

As Maryland personal injury lawyers, I and my colleagues offer legal services to individuals hurt in bicycle and automobile-related accidents. Many of these accidents are caused, sadly, by the negligence of motorists or because of commercial trucking accidents. As injury attorneys, all of us have sensed the pain and seen the suffering that can follow a cycling accident resulting from a car or truck crash. It goes without saying that the medical costs associated with treatment and rehabilitation from such accidents can become quite expensive.

The TOA’s report on pedestrian injuries and fatalities nationwide ranked metropolitan areas in terms of accident frequency for persons on foot as well as on bicycles. The shocking part of the study for this office was the authors’ description of the total deaths across the nation as being equivalent to a commercial airliner crashing with a full passenger load once a month.

Transportation for America points out that nearly 4,000 children under 16 years have been killed so far in the 2000s. Based on the TOA’s numbers, the study stated that children, the elderly and infirm individuals, and ethnic minorities are over-represented when it comes to total death count.

The study also pointed out that while many pedestrian deaths (which in this case includes not only persons on foot but also bicycle riders) are typically termed “accidents,” suggesting an error either on the part of the motor vehicle operator or the person on foot or on his or her bike. However, the TOA stresses that a large percentage of supposed accidents occurred along roadways that were, as they term it, “dangerous by design.” This is to say, that maybe the blame should be aimed at poor roadway and sidewalk design, rather than at the drivers, pedestrians and cyclists who use those walkways and streets.

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Now that Maryland’s weather is getting better, it would appear that bicycle season is in full swing. Spring is a wonderful time, but dangers are always present when riding on public roads, especially heavily trafficked thoroughfares. My office handles numerous injury accidents every year, a percentage of those represent bicycle-car and bike-truck crashes.

One thing I’ve learned practicing in this area: You can never, ever be too cautious. The lack of protection when cycling is evident by the frequent stories of bicycling enthusiasts who are occasionally injured or killed in traffic accidents. My suggestion to anyone contemplating riding in the city or other congested roadway is to assume nobody sees you on your bike.

Maybe in the future laws will be tightened in favor of the even increasing population of bicycle riders, but until then I also remind motorists — as a Baltimore automobile accident aattorney –to be vigilant and watch out for cyclists at all times, especially in the warmer weather. Recently an editorial appeared in the Baltimore Sun suggesting that bikes get a little extra room from the four-wheeled neighbors.

A recent editorial brought up an interesting traffic topic as relates to bicycle-car accidents here in Maryland and across the country in general. As Baltimore injury accident lawyers, we see many victims of traffic collisions, both from truck and car crashes as well as bicycle accidents caused by drivers of motor vehicles. It’s no surprise that when a car and bike tangle on public streets, the cyclist is usually the first to be hurt, sometimes critically. Head injuries are most common, even with helmet use, as are spinal damage, neck injuries and broken bones.

The editorial pointed out that road rage may be to blame for many of the car-bike accidents around the nation, yet authorities may be turning a blind eye to the problem. As drivers in the Baltimore area, as well as other urban and rural areas, I’m certain that more than one person has experienced the anger of another driver on the road. It’s not hard to imagine how much more dangerous this kind of behavior can be when directed toward a cyclist — the results could be deadly.

According to the editorial, there is a sort of “traffic injustice” felt by bicycle riders in some of the nation’s urban centers. The author based his comments on articles documenting certain road rage trials and suggested that individuals can’t ride their bicycles anywhere with safety due to the lack of seriousness on the part of law enforcement when it comes to car-bike accidents that smack of road rage.

Using the analogy of a New Year’s reveler discharging a pistol into the air only to kill an innocent bystander somewhere across town, the author suggests that police are more likely to arrest that gun owner for manslaughter than to charge a driver for intentionally going after and killing a cyclist during a bout of road rage.

The New Year’s incident is hypothetical, yet the author’s point is made very clear; no law enforcement agency would treat this unintentional New Year’s death as “just an accident” unworthy of serious charges, says the author. However, as he explains, when the instrument of injury or death is an automobile in the hands of a careless driver, this is often exactly what happens, according to the author.

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In Baltimore, Annapolis, the District of Columbia, and other municipalities across Maryland and the surrounding area, more and more people are riding bicycles as a way to reduce commuting costs and lead healthier lives. As a bicycle accident attorney and experienced personal injury lawyer, I know the freedom and invigoration that bike riding provides many in our community.

Unfortunately, with more people bicycling to work and school, the potential for bodily injury may also be on the rise. It’s not unusual for a rider to sustain broken bones and lacerations as a result of a collision with a motor vehicle, such as a passenger car, SUV or delivery truck. Instances of car-bike accidents usually increase with the higher traffic density found in medium and large metropolitan areas.

In an effort to alleviate, or at least limit the potential for traffic accidents involving bicyclists, our state legislature is doing its part to help cyclists have more rights on publics roads. According to news reports, the Maryland Senate this recently approved a measure requiring motorists to give bicycles, scooters and other personal transportation devices, such as Segways, at least three feet of space whenever possible.

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