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September 22, 2014

"Move Over Law" to Include Tow Trucks as of October 1, 2014 in Maryland

The state of Maryland has passed a new traffic law which states that a driver is required to move over a lane when passing a stopped emergency vehicle. This means that if for example: A police officer is on the far right lane and is flashing its lights, every motorist in the far right lane should move one lane to the left, if not they can and will be ticketed. It is referred to as the "Move Over Law" and it is intended to provide police and other emergency responders a bit more of a safety margin when they're at work on highways and major roadways. This law in particular took effect in Maryland in 2010, but many drivers are unaware and therefore being ticketed for this infraction. As for Virginia, the law took effect in 2002 and the District of Columbia has yet to implement such a law.

In Maryland the exact language of the law is the following:

"Drivers approaching an emergency vehicle using signals while stopped on a highway are required to make a lane change, if possible, into an available lane not immediately adjacent to the emergency vehicle. If mobbing to another lane is unsafe, the driver must slow to a "reasonable and prudent speed, given the current conditions on the highway."

Emergency vehicles are considered to be those operated by law enforcement agencies, vehicles of rescue squads and fire departments, Maryland emergency medical services, state vehicles responding to oil or hazardous material spills and ambulances of all types. As of October 1, 2014, this law will also include tow trucks.

The violation is considered a primary offense. This means that you do not have to be doing anything else illegal to be stopped by police. The fine is $110 and one point on a driver's license. However; if the violation contributes to an automobile accident, the fine increases to $150 and three points. If however the violation contributes to a fatal automobile accident or one where there is a serious injury, the fine is $750 and three points on a driver's license.

February 3, 2014

State Highway Safety Laws in 2013

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety published a report titled, "2014 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws", in which the District of Columbia was ranked as the best for having the most basic traffic safety laws in the United States, while South Dakota was ranked the worst.

The 2014 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws is in its eleventh year of publication and it uses the following criteria:

- Grades all 50 states in the United States and the District of Columbia;
- Grades based on 15 basic traffic safety laws;
- Takes into consideration the progress in the last 25 years; and
- Considers the risks that put drivers and children at risk.

The purpose of the report is to advance state and federal highway and vehicle safety laws, programs and policies in the United States. It is published by a group of leading consumers, both health and safety organizations and insurance agents and companies whom when gathered together are known as the Advocates.

In the report, it states that the District of Columbia has 12 laws related to basic traffic safety laws. The report gives three different ratings to each state. They range from Green (Good), Yellow (Caution) and Red (Danger). This year was the first year that a safety law was included for enforcing seat belts to rear seating passengers. In order for any state to receive a green rating it had to have included a law enforcing all vehicle passenger safety. Also, a state had to have 11 to 15 laws including both primary enforcement seat belt laws, nine or more laws including both primary enforcement seat belt laws and an all-rider helmet law.

States with a rating of Red have less than seven laws on the books and do not include front and rear seat passenger seat belt laws, therefore; they are deemed dangerous states for drivers and passengers.

There where however six new state laws enacted in 2013. They were the following:
- Primary Enforcement of Seat Belts
- All-rider motorcycle Helmet Use
- Booster Seats
- Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) for teen drivers
- Impaired Driving
- All-Driver Text Messaging Restrictions

November 13, 2012

Stop Sign Cameras in the District of Columbia

Stop Sign.jpgPhoto enforced stop signs have been very successful in the Washington, D.C. area, since they were implemented this fall. These cameras improve safety at intersections by monitoring vehicles and also help prevent pedestrians from being hit by automobiles that do not come to a full stop at stop signs. These cameras act as police officers, on continuous duty watching for violators all day every day, at a minimal cost of actual people doing the job. The District of Columbia cannot afford to post police officers at every dangerous intersection for this duty alone, even for hours a day, much less all day and all week long. Therefore; these cameras are a classic example of technological leaps forward in the United States.

When these cameras were first installed in the D.C. area there was a 30 day transition period when offending drivers were only issued warning tickets, but now that the 30 day transition period is over, drivers receive citations in the mail. The fine for running through these stop signs is $50. The fine for blocking an intersection is $100 and the fine for failing to yield to pedestrians is $250. In order to avoid these fine, under the law the car has to come to a full and complete stop before the crosswalk in order to be considered a legal stop.

In 2011 alone, existing traffic cameras generated $55.1 million dollars, and it is expected to be even more in 2012, now that the stop sign cameras for been implemented all over the city. To date, 16 stop sign cameras have been placed at dangerous intersections all over the District, most of which are near schools.

October 25, 2012

No Correlation between Car Accidents and Size of Cities

Frequency of Car Accidents is completely unrelated to the size of the city in which you live in. A recent report released by the automobile insurance Allstate, which was conducted in various major cities has come to show that the size of the city does not directly influence the likelihood of an automobile crash. The report is titled "Allstate America's Best Drivers Report". The report states that the District of Columbia and Baltimore, Maryland have the shortest time between accidents, while Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Boise, Idaho and Fort Collins, Colorado have the longest periods between accidents. Therefore; Allstate considers Sioux Falls drivers the "safest drivers" in the United States.

Living in a larger city does not necessarily mean you are at a higher risk of being involved in an automobile accident. Car accidents are a major health hazard, regardless of where you live, because they are the leading cause of death for persons between 5-24 years of age. In 2009, 2.3 million adult drivers and passengers ended up in emergency rooms as a result of automobile crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2011, the U.S. saw the fewest number of automobile fatalities since 1949, but that still meant that 32,000 people were killed.

Accidents can happen anywhere and at any time. It is up to the driver to stay alert, follow driving laws, not drink and drive, wear their safety belts and not text or talk on a handheld device while driving.

October 11, 2012

There Are More Gun Deaths Then Automobile Deaths in the DMV

According to a report published by the Violence Policy Center, in 2010, gun deaths outnumber motor vehicle deaths in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control was used to complete this report.

In the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) there were a total of 1,512 gun deaths in 2010 and 1,280 motor vehicle deaths. Specifically: 99 firearm deaths and 38 motor vehicle deaths in the District of Columbia, 538 firearm deaths and 514 motor vehicle deaths in Maryland, and in Virginia there were 875 firearm deaths and 728 motor vehicle deaths.

Firearm deaths, nationwide, in 2010, were 31,672 and 35,498 motor vehicle deaths. Firearms are the only consumer product sold in the United States that is not regulated by the federal government for health and safety. Automobile safety, however; has been overseen by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) since 1966.
Deaths as a result of firearm use almost equal motor vehicle deaths even though there are about three times as many vehicles on the road then firearms.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is responsible in enforcing the U.S.'s limited gun laws, but it has none of the health and safety regulatory powers as the NHTSA. The health and safety regulations of firearms are left to the individual state.

The report published by the Violence Policy Center offers a few policy recommendations in order to improve data collection on firearms violence, increase regulation of the firearms industry and to reduce gun deaths and injuries. Some of their suggestions are:

- Detailed and timely data collection of gun production, sale, use in different crimes;
- The analysis of the types, make and models of firearms that are commonly or most often associated with injury, crimes and death;
- The implementation of safety standards for firearms
- Ban the sale of non sporting purpose guns;
- Limit the firepower of guns sold to the public;
- Expand the categories of persons prohibited from owning and possessing guns;
- Implement better restrictions on the carrying of loaded guns in public places;
- Person with a history of domestic violence and mental health issues should be restricted from being able to own and possess firearms; and
- Educate the public, through campaigns, about the risks associated with firearms.

If, these suggestions are taken into consideration by local, state and the federal governments, firearms deaths could be prevented. For more information visit the various websites sited.

September 18, 2012

Maryland Law Requires Police Officers on Duty to Wear Their Seat Belts to Save Their Lives

Maryland police officers are dying in motor vehicle accidents more than by any other reason in the last few years. As a matter of fact, according to Larry Harmel, the executive director of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association, nine out of the last 11 Maryland Police officers that died in the line of duty were killed as a result of automobile accidents.
Police Cruiser.jpg
Just last month, Officer Adrian Morris was killed while in a high speed chase on I-95. Officer Morris was swerving to avoid hitting other cars when he lost control of his vehicle, flipped several times and was ejected from his vehicle and died. Officer Morris was not wearing his seat belt at the time.

According to the National Highway Safety Office, more than four out of 10 officers, between 1980 and 2008, were killed in the time of duty as a result of car crashes, and these officers were not wearing their seat belts at the time of their accidents.

Maryland and the District of Columbia make it mandatory for all police officers to wear seat belts while inside their cruisers/vehicles. Virginia, however, is one of the 10 states that exempt officers from seat belt laws while in the line of duty.

Therefore, all Police officers in the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia are being urged to buckle up in order to avoid preventable deaths.

September 10, 2012

Dangers of Distracted Driving

The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) has published the following video regarding distracted driving and how it can and does cause a lot of automobile accidents. The Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) also helped and participated in the making of this video. The video was created because 152,000 people were injured as a result of distracted driving between 2007 and 2011. Out of these 152,000 people injured, 1,100 of them were killed as a result.

July 5, 2012

How Common Are Seizures While Driving?

Seizures are defined as episodes of disturbed brain activity that cause changes in attention or behavior.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are two main types of seizures. The first is Primary Generalized seizures, which involve both sides of the brain and the second is Partial seizures, which involve smaller regions of the brain.

Suffering a seizure while driving is extremely rare, but it is far more likely to end in death than suffering a seizure anywhere else. In a 2009 report published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration it was determined that:

- only about 1.3% of all drivers have been involved in a medical emergency crash;

- older drivers are more likely to be involved in medical emergency crashes;

- drivers involved in medical emergency crashes usually are aware of their medical
condition prior to the accident;

- drivers who suffer from a medical condition and are involved in medical emergency crashes are more likely to be severely injured or to die as a result; and

- the most dangerous time of day for medical emergency crashes are between 6am and noon.

Therefore; drivers who suffer from seizures should contact their state's motor vehicle department to see what their rules are in regards to drivers with this medical condition. Rules vary from state to state and some states may bar you from driving for a period of time.

June 19, 2012

Helmet Laws Reduce Motorcycle Accident Deaths

Motorcycle.jpgStates that have helmet laws implemented have fewer motorcycle accident deaths than those that do not, according to a new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report states that five times more motorcyclists die as a result of not being required to wear a helmet in the states that do not have helmet laws when compared to the states the do. In 2010, there were 4,502 motorcycle accident deaths in the U.S. That means that about 14% of traffic deaths were motorcycle deaths. That number is huge, considering that motorcycles represented less than 1% of vehicles on the road that year.

There are 20 states and the District of Columbia that have helmet requirements. Maryland and Virginia are included. In 2010, 739 deaths involved bikers not wearing helmets in these 20 states and the District of Columbia and there were 504 in the three states that do not currently have helmet laws. The three states that do not have helmet laws are Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire.

In the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia all riders must wear a helmet and in Maryland that includes low-power cycles as well. Low power cycles are mopeds, scooters and various other 2-wheeled cycles.

May 24, 2012

88 Traffic Cameras to Be Added to the Streets of D.C.

Speed camera.jpgOn May 18, 2012, the D.C. Council approved the implementation of 88 more traffic cameras in the District of Columbia. These new high tech cameras will not only ticket drivers who run red lights and speed, but will now also ticket drivers who block crosswalks and /or speed through green and yellow lights. The fines can be anywhere between $75 and $250.

To date, the District of Columbia has 78 traditional cameras that generate about $55 million a year and with the addition of these new 88 high tech cameras it is expected to generate another $25 million a year. Therefore; there will be 166 cameras in the District of Columbia and $80 million in revenue a year.

Therefore; slow down and don't block the box while driving in D.C., or get ready to pay.

May 21, 2012

Bicycle Safety

According to a 2009 study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 50,000 bicyclists were injured and 630 of them died from automobile related accidents, therefore; before going on the road and riding a bicycle, here are a few tips:

- Always wear a helmet
- Use a bicycle that is the right size for you
- Make sure the tires are inflated to the correct pressure and that the brakes work properly
- Wear bright colors to make yourself visible to motorists
- Install rear and front lights onto you bicycle that are bright and visible
- If at all possible, avoid riding your bicycle at night.

In the United States, bicycles are considered vehicles, so cyclists are expected to follow the same traffic rules as a car driver. Therefore; here are a few rules while riding your bicycle on the street:

- Obey all traffic laws
- Yield to pedestrians
- Ride your bicycle in the same direction as traffic
- Make sure to signal when you make turns
- Be careful near parked cars as someone might suddenly open the door
- Be careful with vehicles coming in and out of driveways or side streets

For more information visit the NHTSA's website

March 22, 2012

Ignition Interlock Device.jpg
As of July 1, 2012, in the state of Virginia, every first time drunk-driving offender will be required to install an ignition interlock device in their automobile. The ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer in your vehicle that prevents the vehicle from starting if the driver fails the on-board alcohol breath test. In Virginia, the device is set to fail if the reading is above 0.02 percent blood alcohol content. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sets the standards for the device and it varies from state to state. The device is quite small and integrated into your automobiles starting mechanism.

This new punishment bill for drunk drivers was approved by over 80% of legislators in Virginia, making the state one of the 15 states that already require mandatory interlock ignition devices for first time drunk driving offenders. In Virginia alone there were over 30,000 DUI and DWI convictions, out of which most offenders had a blood alcohol content of 0.14, in 2010. As for automobile accidents: alcohol related crashes were about 7% of total accidents, but made up about 37% of fatal accidents in Virginia, in 2010.

The Guidelines for the new law require that:
- A judge will order the installation of the ignition interlock device. After which, the court clerk will register the court order with the Department of Motor Vehicles, which will restrict the defendants driver's license and then the driver must show proof that the ignition device was properly installed in their vehicle, within 30 days of the court order.
- The court will revoke the driver's restricted license if the offender does not install the device within the 30 days after the court order is made and if the device is not properly maintained and monitored.
- An electronic log of all breathalyzer test readings will be maintained by the device. Should the offender fail any of the tests, both random and initial starter tests, the vehicle's horn will sound, repeatedly, and the lights will flash.
- The device must remain in the offenders' vehicle for 6 consecutive months without a failed breathalyzer test result and the offender may not drive any other vehicle without the device.
- After a second DUI/DWI conviction, every vehicle registered and owned by the offender must have a device installed.

In addition to the ignition interlock device, the following are also consequences of drunk-driving punishments in Virginia:
- Suspension, restriction and or revocation of the offenders' license
- Jail or prison time
- Fines
- Community service
- Probation
- Alcohol education
- Criminal record
- Treatment
- Vehicle impoundment, and
- Repayment of costs incurred by the state for state property damage, police costs and fire/emergency services

Therefore; if you or a loved one is arrested for and/or charged with DUI or DWI, you must contact my office to discuss your legal rights and discuss a plan of defense.

January 30, 2012

Teen Automobile Related Fatalities on the Rise in Virginia

eating while driving.jpgBetween January 1, 2012 and January 24, 2012 there have been 11 teen automobile related fatalities in Virginia. At the same time period in 2011 there were only three. This is a huge increase that could be avoided if certain precautions were taken. The most common factors in the fatal automobile crashes are speed, distractions, alcohol, no use of seat belts and cell phone use.

Virginia safety organizations are urging teen drivers, as well as their parents, to take precautions to prevent further tragedies. Some of the precautions suggested are:
Teens:
- Obey posted speed limits;
- Do not Text, Talk or use handheld devices while driving;
- Do not drive distracted by changing radio stations, eating or by having too many passengers in the vehicle;
- Commit to driving safely;
- Always wear your seat belt.

Parents:
- Talk to your teen about the dangers of speeding and driving distracted;
- Set clear rules for driving and let them know that it is a privilege and not a right. They need to earn the privilege and that there are consequences to their actions;
- Set curfews, passenger limitations and make clear the punishment if these rules are broken.

Schools and Safety Organizations:
- Discuss the increase in teen fatalities, so that they are aware;
- Educate students on safe driving practices through interactive methods. Use visual displays, videos, guest speakers and programs;
- Post seat belt reminders and no cell phone use signs all over school property and all parking areas.

For more safety tips and information, visit the following websites: www.yovaso.net and www.blueridgecrashteams.org

January 4, 2012

Pedestrian Deaths Among Hispanics in Montgomery County, Maryland Is Alarming

Pedestrian.jpgThere were 11 pedestrian deaths in Montgomery County, Maryland in 2011 and five of them victims were Hispanic. Hispanics only make up about 17 percent of the county's population, therefore; this rate is alarming. According to the AAA Midatlantic and the Latino Advocacy group Casa de Maryland, the number of Hispanics that died as a result of pedestrian accidents is disproportionate when considering that Hispanics only make up a small percent of the County's population.

According to the AAA, Viers Mill Road is one of the deadliest and most dangerous streets for pedestrians. Out of the five victims in 2011, four of them were killed on Viers Mill Road.

Phil Andres, a Montgomery County Council member says that the county will continue its efforts to reach and educate Hispanics on traffic safety, but that it is also up to the pedestrian and drivers in Maryland to be more careful and follow traffic and safety rules more carefully.

Cell Phone use should be a minimum and texting while driving is now illegal in Maryland, therefore, one should not send, receive or view text messages while behind the wheel. Also, cell phone use is only allowed when using an ear piece/bluetooth or if your vehicle comes equipt with hands-free talking. If all drivers follow these rules and more pedestrians make sure and cross at intersections and crosswalks hopefully the number of pedestrian accidents and deaths will lower for all Montgomery County Residents.

October 3, 2011

New Traffic Laws Implemented in MD As of October 1, 2011

Distracted Driving.jpgAs of October 1, 2011 Maryland Police Officers are allowed to pull drivers over for text messaging. Sending, receiving and reading text messages while behind the wheel will now be considered a primary offense. Which means, that Police, can now pull over and ticket drivers who are caught sending, receiving or reading text messages without their needing to be any other offense committed. Emergency 911 text messaging is exempt from this new law.

Under the new text messaging law, violators, can be fined up to $70 and receive one point toward suspension of a driver's license. If, an automobile accident or pedestrian/automobile accident is resulted from text messaging the fine will increase to $110 and three points towards the suspension of a driver's license.

This same law is in effect in the District of Columbia, but it is still only a secondary offense in Virginia.

Another new Maryland traffic law going into effect as of October 1, 2011, is that criminal prosecution will be allowed of drivers who are considered negligent in pedestrian and bicyclists deaths. Under this new traffic law, it will be considered a misdemeanor for a person to cause the death of another as a result of the person's driving, operating or controlling a vehicle in a criminal negligent manner.

These two new Maryland traffic laws are being implemented because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 20 percent of crashes in 2009 were cause by distracted drivers, of which, 995 fatal crashes involved drivers distracted by cell phone use.