Keeping Maryland residents safe is the priority of the Motor Vehicle Administration, Highway Safety Office, and the State Government. Through many programs and specific legislation, Old Line State drivers and pedestrians are protected quite well. Discussed below are many of the most pertinent resources available to consumers. Safety programs and tools from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration help protect consumers.
Driver Improvement Program (DIP)
DIP is am instructional and interactive program designed to improve and educate drivers. Typically, residents are assigned to the program (4-8 hours) for one of the following reasons: Total of 5-7 points on driving record, probation when charged with a moving violation and having provisional license, District Court Judge referral, or Administrative Law Judge referral. Correspondence via mail will be sent if a judge rules that completing the program is required. The letter is typically sent 4-6 weeks after the official hearing date.
The correspondence will provide details regarding the driver’s obligation and a list of nearby driving schools. Upon receipt, the class must be selected and completed by the due date. Approximately 4-8 hours should be allotted. A certificate of completion and compliance will be provided. If you miss a scheduled class, documentation for a valid reason will be accepted, and a new class will be scheduled. Missed classes without a valid exception can result in a suspension or revocation of a driver’s license.
Following the assignment to the DIP Program, a provider should be contacted to discuss class times and availability, along with the costs of participation. Lost letters can be replaced although driving privileges can be terminated if class is missed. The National Safety Council should be contacted if you have moved to a different state.
Vehicle Occupant Protection
For more than 20 years, Maryland law requires wearing a seat belt while driving. Utilization of seat belts and child restraint systems has saved thousands of lives, and drastically reduced the number of serious injuries. Collisions with motor vehicles are the leading cause of child deaths in the US, so “buckling up” is critical. Fortunately, the number of vehicle crashes and seriously-injured vehicle occupants not wearing seat belts, is declining. Areas with the highest percentage of incidences are the city of Baltimore, and the following counties: Anne, Arundel, Carroll, Harford, and Howard.
Statewide usage of seat belts is approximately 91%. The low was 89% in 2004, while the highest percentage was 94% in 2010 and 2011. The state law requires that all occupants in the front and back seats, must be buckled up. Drivers can not operate the vehicle until all passengers are fastened by a seat belt or children’s safety seat. Violators can be fined $50. If a driver and child are both unbuckled, two tickets will be issued to the driver. There is no limit to the number of violations that can occur.
Note: If the driver is not buckled, there is a 70%-80% chance that any children in the vehicle also are unbuckled. Also, with the written permission of a licensed physician (for medical reasons), a driver does not have to fasten their seat belt. Children that are unrestrained, and involved in a 25 miles-per-hour collision, are likely to be seriously injured. Incorrect installation, using unapproved or expired seats, and using broken seats, are quite common.
You are not safer in a pickup truck than a passenger car.
Lap belts should be fastened approximately 2-4 inches below the waist.
Using the lap or should belt the wrong way can result in serious injuries.
Placing the belt over the pelvis is recommended.
Once a child reaches the maximum rear-facing weight limit, the car seat must be turned around (facing front).
Although sometimes inconvenient, seat belts should be used in back seats also.
Aggressive driving can occur in many situations. Common examples are speeding, improper passing, weaving in and out of lanes, abruptly slamming brakes, tailgating, improper passing, ignoring traffic lights and stop signs, and forcing a vehicle off the road. Crash reports involving this type of behavior typically include drivers that fail to yield the right of way, exceed the speed limit, disregard road signs or markings, drive the wrong way, consume alcohol in excess of legal limits, improper pass, or follow too closely.
Although highway and roadway fatalities continue to reduce, vehicle deaths continue to be the leading cause of deaths in the US. When aggressive driving is present in an accident, the chance of death increases. Locally, most of the fatalities occurred in the Washington and Baltimore areas. Baltimore and Prince George Counties have the highest incidences of death, accounting for more than 30% of all fatal crashes from aggressive operators. The months with the most fatalities are October, November, and December. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are the most dangerous driving days.
Males are responsible for more than 60% of the crashes and suffer four times as many fatalities. Maryland has an aggressive driving law that charges $370 for each violation and adds five points to the license. To qualify, three violations from this list below must be present: failure to yield, passing on right, passing and overtaking, speeding, following too closely, operating on loaned roadway, and traffic lights.
To help reduce this type of behavior, the ADAPT (Aggressive Drivers Are Public Threats) program was developed. A combination of enforcement and media exposure helps drivers recognize potential issues, and eliminate them before a problem develops. An education program, aided by public service announcements, radio and TV advertising, social media, and online streaming, helps to increase consumer awareness.
To help avoid aggressive drivers, avoid eye contact and remain relaxed, shift lanes if they are behind you, don’t escalate the encounter, don’t increase your speed when they are behind you, and avoid name-calling and obscene gestures. If you continued to be followed, if possible, drive to the closest police station.
Drugs, alcohol, and medications are the leading causes of impaired driving. The consequences can be fatal to the driver, passengers, and other vehicles on the road. Although ignition interlock systems and road checkpoints help, the number of impacted drivers, passengers, and pedestrians is still too high.
Noah’s Law (Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016) has helped keep drivers safer, by bolstering the Ignition Interlock Program. This legislation requires an interlock device for any person that has been convicted of a DUI, DWI (if transporting a passenger under age 16), or a death caused by a DWI or DUI. The device must remain attached to the vehicle for a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of 3 years, depending upon the number of incidents. If the vehicle does not have an installed ignition interlock device, it can not be driven.
Any person that declines to take a chemical test and receives a DWI, must use an interlocking device for 12 months. In some instances, an interlock ignition program may be used in lieu of a suspension. Also, if a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 is found, participation in the program may be selected instead of disputing the findings. Additionally, high-risk car insurance rates in Maryland are substantially more expensive than preferred rates. Naturally, it’s a situation you always want to avoid.
The highest number of driver-impaired crashes occur during the late-evening hours and on weekends. Most crashes happen on Fridays, Saturdays, and early Sunday. After 3 a.m., there is a significant reduction in incidents. Two programs designed to reduce the number of accidents are the Checkpoint Strike Force, and the State Police Impaired Driving Effort.
Phone use and texting cause drives to become distracted while driving, and not pay full attention to the road and surroundings. Pedestrians, other drivers, and passengers are at risk. The most common distractions include watching a video, eating, drinking, combing hair, looking in purse or wallet, talking to other occupants in the vehicle, and changing radio stations. The four types of distractions are cognitive, manual, visual, and auditory.
Fortunately, the number of distracted driver incidents in the state has been declining. Deaths are also declining although almost have of all Maryland crashes were directly or indirectly caused by distracted drivers. Since 80% of these types of accidents result in an injury, it’s critical to continue to reduce the number of incidents. Most of the crashes occurred in the Washington/Baltimore areas.
Pedestrian-involved accidents and injuries have increased for pedestrians, since 2013. Typically, more than 2,000 pedestrian crashes occur each year, with more than 80% resulting in injuries or fatalities. 20% of persons that are killed in vehicle crashes, are pedestrians. Most of the crashes take place in the Washington and Baltimore metropolitan areas. Prince George County typically has very high fatality rates. Other counties with high rates include Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford, and Howard.
Friday is the most dangerous day for pedestrians, especially between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. Young drivers are responsible for the most number of pedestrian accidents, while older drivers are involved with a high number of fatalities. Males are typically the victims in most accidents. About 70% of pedestrian fatalities are male.
Maryland pedestrian safety laws and penalties include:
Passing a vehicle stopped for a pedestrian ($80-$500).
Not stopping for a pedestrian in crosswalk ($80-$500).
Failure to obey pedestrian control signal ($40-$500).
Pedestrian illegally on roadway ($40-$500).
Failure to yield right-of-way to vehicle ($40-$500).
Current Traffic Laws for Bicyclists:
Persons riding bikes should stay as close as possible to the right side of the road. Some exceptions include avoiding a pedestrian, making a left turn, driving on a one-way street, and operating in a narrow lane.
A passenger can not ride on a bicycle, unless it is designed and properly equipped for an extra rider.
Bicycles are not permitted on roads or highways when the speed limit is 50 mph (or more).
You can not touch or hold onto another vehicle.
A rider can not operate a bicycle while wearing earplugs or a headset that covers both ears.
A bicycle can not be fastened to a fire hydrant, pole, or meter.
Cyclists must obey traffic laws and are highly-encouraged to wear a helmet. Drivers of vehicles must also be cautious and courteous. Typically, when a crash occurs between a vehicle and someone on a bike, the cyclist is injured. Bicycle crashes have been increasing for the last five years, and more than 80% of those crashes resulted in an injury or death. Most crashes occurred in the Washington DC and Baltimore areas. The months with the highest number of accidents were June, July, August, and September.
School Bus Zones
All sides of the bus are at risk when children are waiting to be picked up. Children should stand at least 10 feet away from the bus and never stand or walk behind it. Passing a bus or another vehicle is one of the leading causes of fatalities in a school zone. The most common reasons children are hit include not staying within the bus driver’s sight, dropping an item and picking it up, attempting to get off the bus too quick, and making the assumption that motorists will see them.
Tips for drivers:
Be alert for unexpected events.
Understand what flashing yellow lights and flashing red lights mean.
Watch for children playing in unexpected locations, including bus stops.
When leaving home, watch for children riding or walking to school.
Child Passenger Safety
Children under eight-years-old are required to be placed in a child-restraint. An exception is made if the child is at least 4’9″. Children 8-16 must be appropriately fastened in a seatbelt, if not placed in a child restraint. The driver must ensure that all passengers are buckled up before operating the vehicle. Note: Children are permitted to be placed in the front seat with the proper protection. Rules apply to all vehicles, regardless if they are in-state or otherwise.
Kids In Safety Seats (KISS) is funded by the Maryland Highway Safety Office. Several services offered by the program include reduced costs and special needs assistance for car seats, virtual and in-person car seat inspections, and email, phone, and website free safety information. Selection of the best car seat, and availability of training and presentations are available through their website.
Driver Wellness And Safety Programs
3-Hour Alcohol And Drug Education – The program is mandatory if you only have a miliary license or have a non-US license. A certificate is provided when the program is successfully completed. A list of companies offering the program is available along with their fee schedule.
Ignition Interlock – Persons that have been arrested for impaired driving are offered an option to avoid a suspended license. Driving is permitted, but only under careful supervision. Cameras are included on all new devices. If the alcohol concentration reading is .15 or higher, a one-year program enrollment is required. A reading between .08 and .15 requires a 180-day enrollment. Written proof of the installation is required, and the participant will be notified of the required length of time that must be completed.
Modified Vision Program – A restricted license is provided to drivers with correct vision less than 20/70, but not worse than 20/100. Continuous field vision is also required. A daylight restriction may possible be removed after 12 months. The Driver Wellness And Safety Division processes the paperwork. New and experienced drivers have different requirements. Applicants that have never had a valid driver’s license must complete clinical and active driving requirements along with 80 hours of supervised and customized driving.
Reinstatement Of A Revoked Driver’s License – After 12 accumulated points, it is possible to reinstate your license. One revocation results in only a 6-month waiting period. Two, three, and four or more revocations results in 12-month, 18-month, and 24-month waiting periods respectively. If a reinstatement request is denied, an appeal may be submitted.
Motorcycle Safety Program
Motorcycle rider training courses are offered to all operators by the MVA. Skills and strategies are taught and discussed, which leads to a decreased chance of injury or fatality. About 9 out of 10 accidents occur to riders with limited or no training. Although adult training is not required, persons under age 18 must complete a Basic Rider or Alternative Basic course. Many training facilities are available.
Although the number of crashes has decreased in the last five years, the number of fatalities has slightly increased. However most crashes result in an injury or death. And as expected, higher-populated areas have the most crashes and injuries. More than 50% of reported crashes were in the Baltimore area, with warmer months the most dangerous. Operators between the ages of 25-49 generally account for about half of all crashes, with male drivers accounting for about 90% of those crashes.
Helmets are required by the Department of Transportation, subject to specific standards. Helmet manufactures are required to certify compliance with acceptable standards. A windscreen or approved eye-protective device also must be worn. Nineteen training centers are located throughout the state including Cumberland (Willowbrook Road), Arnold (College Parkway), Westminster (Washington Road), Frederick (Opossumtown Pike), Hagerstown (Robinwood Drive), and Baltimore (Pulaski Highway).
A strategic highway safety program (SHSP) helps reduce the number of highway deaths, and serious injuries on all roads. The number of serious deaths and injuries has gradually reduced over the last 10 years, as implemented changes continue to be effective. The TZD (Towards Zero Deaths) campaign is supported by the MD Chiefs of Police Association, Association of County Health Officers, and several additional organizations. Reducing fatalities by up to 50% by 2030 is the ultimate goal.
Motor scooters and mopeds do not require a class M motorcycle license. However, operators must have a valid driver’s license. An identification decal must be visibly displayed, and approved eye protection and a compliant motorcycle helmet must be worn. The right side of the road must be use unless making a left turn, driving on a one-way street, avoiding road hazards or pedestrians, or passing a slow-moving vehicle. Headsets that cover both ears are typically not allowed. The maximum operating speed is 30 miles per hour.
Advanced aging can impact your reaction, sight, and hearing, and subsequently your ability to safely operate an automobile. Several self-assessment guides are available, including “Am I A Safe Driver,” “Test Your Driving IQ,” “5-Question Test,” and “DriveSharp.” Medication assessments, professional evaluations, and MVA screenings are also provided. Driving Safety course offered include AAA Roadwise Driver For Seniors, AARP Driver Safety Program, and AARP Smart Driver TEK.
About 20% of Maryland’s population is over the age of 60. In 10 years, the percentage will increase to 25%. The most common crashes for older drivers are turning left at an intersection with a stop sign, merging onto a ramp with a yield sign, changing lanes on large highways, and turning left at an intersection with a green light and oncoming traffic. The number of crashes and fatalities caused by older drivers has steadily increased over the last 10 years.
The MHSO (Maryland Highway Safety Office) provides summary crash data to the public. An annual highway safety plan is also available for the review of projects.