Articles Posted in Maryland Driving Laws

As the weather warms up, more people are heading outdoors to enjoy the sunshine and sunny skies. Among various outdoor things people enjoy outdoors during the warmer months, riding utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) or dirt bikes is a common activity. UTVs, however, may not be as safe as they seem—and can pose significant dangers to drivers and passengers alike if they are used improperly.

According to a recent news report, a man driving a UTV was killed when a dump truck backed into him. Local troopers reported that the dump truck was traveling up a hill when it was no longer able to continue uphill and backed into the UTV that was driving behind it. The dump truck pushed the UTV off the left side of the road, where it overturned and the dump truck came to a rest on top of it. The driver of the UTV was pronounced dead on the scene, but the driver of the dump truck was not injured in the crash. The accident remains under investigation by local authorities.

What Are the Risks of Driving a UTV?

Although UTVs include seat belts and a roll cage, they can still pose significant risks to those who drive them and their passengers. Most accidents involve drinking and driving, inexperienced operators, and not driving UTVs as they were intended by failing to use safety equipment or speeding. Outside of driver error, however, UTVs carry many other risks. They often do not have the metal protective exterior of a full car and can be more difficult for some drivers to see on the road. Without a helmet, multi-point harness, or proper eye protection, drivers are often vulnerable to significant injuries if an accident takes place. In addition, UTVs carry a higher risk for rollover than other similar vehicles because its weight and center of gravity do not allow it to shift to balance on corners. Even with a better suspension than similar types of vehicles, UTVs are often at risk of rolling over if the driver turns a corner too quickly or is not careful on bumpy terrain.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion raising an interesting issue discussing whether a vehicle owner has a duty to install brakes on their trailer. Ultimately, the court did not come to a definitive decision, and remanded the case for further consideration. However, the opinion provides insight into the court’s considerations.

According to the court’s opinion, a woman was asked by her father to transport a load of palm fronds using his truck and trailer. Originally, the woman’s father had planned on making the trip himself, but he was not feeling well on the day of the trip. The trailer was not equipped with brakes and was loaded past its capacity.

While the woman was transporting the load, traffic in front of her suddenly slowed. As the woman tried to brake, she realized she was not going to stop in time, so she swerved onto the shoulder. Unfortunately, as the vehicle entered the shoulder, it struck the plaintiff who was waiting for the bus.

Motorists confront a variety of dangers on Maryland highways. A significant number of these hazards have to do with the many semi-trucks or other large commercial vehicles that seem to be a permanent fixture along the I-95 corridor, the Beltway, and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

While the dangers presented by large trucks number too many to count, one of the most unrecognized hazards arises when a truck driver has the need to pull over onto the shoulder of the road. A Maryland truck driver may need to pull over for many reasons, including a blown tire, shifting cargo, or some other equipment failure. Truck drivers may also pull over if they feel too drowsy to safely operate a truck. Whatever the case, when a semi-truck pulls over onto the side of the highway, it can present a serious danger for passing motorists.

Included in the duties of a Maryland truck driver is the responsibility to safely operate the rig at all times. This includes parking a truck on the side of the highway. Except in cases of an emergency, truck drivers must only pull off the road in designated areas. Moreover, truck drivers must ensure that they are completely off the road, and not blocking any lane of travel. A driver’s failure to take these basic precautions may result in a serious Maryland truck accident.

Anyone who has ever run out of gas or had a tire blow out on the highway knows how terrifying it can be to linger on or around the road’s edge. This is especially the case on any of Maryland’s many interstates. Indeed, it is estimated that nearly 20% of all Maryland car accidents occurring on the highway happen off the roadway. This includes both on the shoulder and in the median.

Not only are these accidents common, but they are also very likely to result in serious injury or death because high speeds are usually involved, and motorists are often caught entirely off guard. In fact, roughly 600 people lose their lives each year in roadside accidents. Many of these victims are emergency workers or other roadside workers who are struck while responding to the scene of an emergency or performing some other necessary task.

In an effort to protect roadside workers, Maryland lawmakers have enacted a “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to vacate the lane adjacent to a stopped emergency vehicle. As of October 2, 2018, the law applies to:

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If you have ever seen a tow-truck driver on the side of the road working on getting a disabled vehicle on the bed of the tow truck, you know what a dangerous proposition it can be. There they are, perched on a few-foot-wide piece of pavement between the disabled vehicle and semi-trucks whizzing by at seventy-plus miles per hour.

A new law pending in the Maryland legislature will help protect tow-truck drivers while they are working on the side of the road. The bill, sponsored by David D. Rudolph (D-Cecil) and James E. Malone Jr. (D-Baltimore County), would require motorists to move into an open lane away from tow-truck drivers who are tending to disable vehicles. Currently the law requires motorists move into an open lane for emergency vehicles such as police cars and fire trucks, this would be an extension of that law.

A recent article by the Washington Post details the story of a tow-truck driver who was killed when he was hit by driver while tending to a disabled vehicle. He was changing the tire on a vehicle when a car side swiped him, killing him on the spot. The driver failed to stop and render aid, and the man died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the accident.

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As a vehicle driver or passenger car occupant hurt or injured as a result of a truck driver’s negligence, you have the right to present the police-issued traffic citation as evidence in a personal injury or wrongful death suit against a big rig operator or trucking company. Being involved in a crash with an 18-wheeler can have serious medical implications and can cause life-changing results to a victim and his or her family.

As Maryland trucking accident lawyers, we know from first-hand experience how a multi-vehicle accident involving semi tractor-trailers can affect individuals months and even years following a crash. Whether someone is involved in a collision with a delivery truck, tanker trailer rig and over-the-road commercial hauler, the results can be financially crushing and medically devastating to say the least.

Injuries from such accidents can range from typically serious injuries, such as head and neck trauma, to lesser bodily harm like cuts, bruises and contusions. The smaller the victim’s vehicle the more chance there is for serious injury or death.

When it comes to bringing a suit, the injured party can use the truck driver’s traffic citation as part of his or her evidence that the truck driver was considered by the police to be negligent. As any person who has received a speeding ticket in this state knows, our traffic laws govern all Maryland drivers. What is important to understand, however, is that truck drivers are also governed by other federal as well as state regulations. If a commercial truck driver violates any of these laws and causes a car accident, the injured party may use that violation as evidence of the truck driver’s negligence.

Since heavy trucks including Mack, Volvo, Freightliners to name a few are used to maintain the commerce of our state and country, the number of these large trucks found on public roads will always be significant, especially during the work week. Busy metropolitan areas see a significant number of truck traffic, both expressway and surface street truck volume, and especially in areas populated by industrial parks and manufacturing centers.

Drivers of small family vehicles, such as minivans and passenger cars, must continually deal with the presence of these larger vehicles on a daily basis. In fact, a fully-loaded semi can weight as much a 80,000 pounds — close to 20 times the weight of an average car or SUV. In a crash, a fully-loaded semi can literally crush the smaller vehicle with little effort.

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A recent study had some interesting findings about tractor-trailer operators, traffic accidents and cell phone texting habits. Because our firm, Lebowitz-Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers handles a large number of trucking accident injury cases, we were not surprised to learn that the chance for truck drivers to be involved in a highway collision is directly proportional to whether they are texting on their cell phone while operating a big rig.

According to the report, on released from a new study this week report that texting while driving increases the chance that a truck driver will be involved in a traffic accident or near-accident by 23 times. Researches from Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute looked at commercial trucking information from two studies — one in 2003 and the other in 2007. More than two hundred truck drivers who drove over three million miles took part in the study. The institute looked at 4,452 events considered “safety-critical,” including 197 near accidents and 21 truck crashes.

Video cameras were used to record event in the cabs of the trucks during the study. Those cameras shot footage of truck drivers’ facial reactions in the final seconds right before a near miss truck crash or an actual truck accident. The footage showed that the main reason texting while driving is so dangerous for truck drivers is that they have to take their eyes off the road.

Last week, Motor Vehicle Administration (“MVA”) administrator, John T. Kuo, announced that new applicants for a Maryland driver’s license will have to undergo an updated road test. As many of our readers know, the older version of the driving test required applicants to pass a written exam, navigate a closed road course, and then parallel park. Under the new test, applicants will have to pass a written test, navigate the closed course, and then take their car onto open roads. The new testing procedure is currently in effect in the Waldorf and Frederick MVA locations.

Maryland truck accident attorneys are happy to see Maryland update its driving test procedures and bring them more in line with other states that perform driving tests on open roads. The MVA and parents hope that the new testing procedures will reduce the number of Maryland teenagers involved in auto accidents. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 2005, car accidents caused one third of all deaths among 16-19 year olds. In 2007, nearly 5,000 teenagers died in car accidents in the United States and teens within the first months of receiving their license were at a higher risk of being injured in an auto accident.

MVA officials and many parents believe that the new test is a more effective way to test a potential driver’s ability. According to MVA officials, the old test placed too great an emphasis on skills like parallel parking, while the new road test will test a driver’s ability to handle more “real world” situations and will emphasize defensive driving techniques. The MVA expects that by this fall, Baltimore and Washington metro locations will begin implementing the new tests.

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We recently reported that the Maryland legislature was considering a ban on texting while driving in the state. Recently, both the Maryland House and the Senate have passed versions of the ban and are currently reconciling the bill before it is sent to the Governor’s desk for signature. Governor O’Malley has promised sign the bill into law and to make Maryland one of the growing number of states with text messaging bans.

The House version of the bill prohibits sending text messages while a driver is in travel lanes, even if the driver’s care is stopped at a red light. The Senate version of the law prohibits both sending and reading text messages while on Maryland roads. Under both versions of the bill, texting while driving will be a misdemeanor violation and violators will be subject to a fine of up to $500. Additionally, lawmakers have made texting while driving a primary offense, which means that police officers may pull over a suspected texter even if there is no evidence of other violations.

Although the Maryland Highway Safety Administration has not kept statistics of accidents involving texting while driving, distracted driving has been a factor in a number of automobile accidents in the state. Maryland accident attorneys believe that the texting ban will reduce the ever increasing level of distraction faced by drivers in this state.

On Monday, I met with a new client who was walking across a Baltimore City street. This individual was crossing the street within the cross walk and on a permissible pedestrian “walk” signal when she was struck by a fast moving car that made a right hand turn. She was knocked to the ground, and she suffered broken ribs and a head injury.

In Maryland, it is important to remember that owners of cars who are pedestrians when they are hit by a tractor-trailer, pick-up truck or car still receive the benefits of their automobile insurance coverage available as if they were struck while operating their motor vehicle. In short, a pedestrian does not need to be in his or her vehicle to utilize their own automobile insurance coverage when hit by another vehicle while walking.

The three types of automobile insurance coverage that are typically most useful to someone hit while a pedestrian, are:

1. personal injury protection – this insurance will cover medical bills and 85% of lost wages incurred due to the pedestrian incident, up to the coverage limit. PIP coverage in Maryland is usually purchased at limits of $2,500.00, $5,000.00, $7,500.00 or $10,000.00.

2. medical payment coverage – this insurance will cover medical bills caused by injuries sustained in the pedestrian accident, up to the coverage limit.

3. uninsured or underinsured motorists coverage – this insurance will step in to pay for injuries sustained in the pedestrian incident, such as for broken bones, head injury, muscle and ligament strains and tears, medical bills, and lost wages when the driver of the involved vehicle leaves the scene of the accident and cannot be found, when the other driver has no insurance or when the at fault driver does not have enough insurance to cover the injuries sustained in the collision.

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