Maryland Beltway Congestion Complicates Roadway Safety
Here at the law offices of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, our legal team represents victims of personal injury accidents in a variety of areas, not the least of which is serious injury-related car and commercial truck collisions. Being well aware of the pain and suffering that can be inflicted on individuals who are involved in roadway crashes, the members of our legal staff use caution when behind the wheel of our their motor vehicles. We certainly understand the dangers, hazards and pitfalls of driving in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., area.
Some of the more serious auto accidents that occur in our part of the country take place on the nearby beltways and interstates that connect cities such as Baltimore, the District of Columbia, Glen Burnie and Annapolis. Regardless of who you are, if you regularly drive these high-speed routes there is always a risk of being caught up in a multi-vehicle wreck. At highway speeds, the possibility of severe bodily injury can be quite high, which is why we always advise caution when traveling these roadways.
Whether one is traveling between D.C. and Baltimore County on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, or making your way from one side of a metropolitan area to another, either on I-695 or the Capital Beltway, the huge volume of traffic combined with the potential for driver error or just plain negligence can make any kind of commute a risky venture. As auto accident attorneys, we have seen the types of injuries that can occur on these major roads and the consequences are certainly not pleasant.
The Capital Beltway, which encircles Washington, Silver Spring and Bethesda, among other communities, is comprised of nearly 65 miles of concrete and asphalt with multiple lanes and numerous entrance and exit ramps. Despite a plethora of road construction projects meant to increase capacity and enhance commuter safety, the half-century old beltway still experiences a troublesome amount of heavy traffic, which continues to vex residents and visitors alike.
For example, there are several interchanges along the Capital Beltway that have the dubious distinction of being named in the top 20 of the worst bottleneck areas in the nation. Anyone who has traveled the beltway knows that backups and potential traffic accidents lurk at the crossroads of I-495 and I-270 in Maryland’s Montgomery County, thanks to upward of 750,000 vehicles making their way through the interchange on a daily basis. The College Park Interchange over in Prince George's County is another trouble spot, seeing more than 300,000 vehicles each day; while the Springfield Interchange -- which represents the confluence of interstates 395, 95 and 495 -- is only slightly better in comparison.
Connecting us in the Baltimore area to our nation’s capital, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway presents its own set of problems. Beginning as an interchange in Prince George's County, where US Rte 50 and Maryland Rte 201 meet, the B-W Parkway heads northeast to connect D.C. to Baltimore County. Car and trucking-related crashes along this thoroughfare continue to happen due to large traffic volume, high speeds and driver haste, which is ironic because the parkway was conceived, at least in part, as a way to reduce the number of car crashes plaguing US 1 during the early 20th century.
Although efforts to increase traffic flow on these roadways -- while maintaining or improving safety -- have come and gone, the continued influx of people to the Maryland and Washington, D.C., area is certain to keep the pressure on highway engineers to stay ahead, or at least not fall too far behind, the demands of an ever-increasing commuter population. Still, the total elimination of serious car, truck and motorcycle accidents is hardly feasible at this point in time, which is why we continue to urge caution to friends and family when traversing the local beltways and high-speed interstates.
While it is true that expressway or freeway travel is something that nobody is ready to go without, the experience that most people have on Maryland’s densely packed beltways, parkways and highways is anything but enjoyable. Depending on the circumstances, these are high-speed venues present drivers with numerous opportunities for potential disaster; therefore, motorists need to be constantly alert and always vigilant to the events taking place ahead of and beside their vehicles.
With an eye to safety on our limited access roadways, many traffic safety advocates have recommended ways in which motorists can limit their potential exposure to the inherent dangers of these high-speed motorways. One of the most basic safety rules is that of leaving sufficient distance between one’s car and the vehicle in front. While some drivers may not embrace this philosophy, it is always wise to avoid any tailgating situation.
Regardless of the temptation to press those ahead of you, it is best to remember that as traffic speed increases, longer braking distances are required to maintain a margin of safety between cars. Without enough room, sudden braking by the car ahead could result in a collision. To maintain smooth traffic flow, traffic safety experts also suggest that drivers on interstates and other high-speed roadways attempt to keep their vehicle speed at a constant rate.
While traveling on a congested freeway or beltway, avoid any kind of in-car distractions. Staying on top of the current driving conditions -- such as traffic volume and flow, as well as road and weather conditions -- will improve a driver’s chances of avoiding a serious and possibly fatal collision. Watch out for debris on the road, or any other obstructions that could cause another motorist to make an emergency maneuver in front of your vehicle. Stay attentive to all the cars and trucks in your immediate vicinity -- on the sides, as well as ahead and behind your car. Doing so may allow you to anticipate a problem and avoid a crash.
Before attempting a lane change or other maneuver, signal your intention prior to making your move. This is especially important when passing a slower vehicle, as well as when entering the beltway or leaving the main traffic flow and taking an exit ramp. Your vehicle’s turn signals and brake lights should be checked regularly to be certain that they are working properly. There is no benefit to signaling your intention when your turn signals are not working properly; this simple oversight has caused more than a few severe or fatal traffic accidents in the past, and likely will continue to do so in the future.
Finally, use extra caution when traveling under exceptional or extreme driving conditions. Driving at night, in the rain, or through a snow storm will always require extra care on the part of any thoughtful motorist. Reducing vehicle speed is a typical safety measure, especially at night or in the rain, when your eyesight is less effective and your vehicle’s headlights have a more difficult job of illuminating the roadway. Naturally, vehicle handling is negatively affected during inclement weather -- such as snow, ice, sleet and freezing rain -- under which conditions often make turning, stopping and emergency maneuver much more challenging.
As motorists ourselves, the staff at Lebowitz & Mzhen knows that the chances of a fatal car and truck collision can be a common and sometimes overwhelming concern for some drivers. Try not to let worry absorb your thoughts to the point of distraction. Make an effort to stay attentive to the traffic situation ahead of you. Although most people have never been in a serious injury-related traffic wreck, there is no doubt that many people still know of a friend, neighbor or acquaintance who has been badly hurt in a Maryland car or commercial truck crash.
In such instances, getting medical attention is of primary importance. But after treatment of one’s injuries has been seen to, it may be a wise step to contact a legal professional with training in personal injury law. Especially in cases where someone has been injured by the thoughtless or negligent actions of another driver, consulting with a qualified auto accident attorney can help to educate the victim on his or her options when considering an injury claim.
As professional Baltimore trial lawyers, Lebowitz & Mzhen can help victims or their families file personal injury claims or wrongful death lawsuits. In tragic cases involving loss of life, damages may be contested by the negligent party. Our legal team knows the best course of action to fight for recovery of both economic and non-economic damages. Whether a person has died as a result of a passenger car collision, motorcycle crash or a commercial truck wreck, the decision to file a claim for damages as part of a wrongful death suit should be discussed with an experienced personal injury attorney.
The legal team at the law offices of Lebowitz & Mzhen has a vast amount of experience in the field of personal injury and auto insurance law. We have the training and skills to ensure that past, current and future medical expenses will be covered for the victims of negligent driving, and our staff welcomes all inquiries. Please contact us for a free, no-obligation legal consultation. You may email either Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen to set up an appointment, or phone us toll-free at (800) 654-1949.