Car accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that conflicting traffic laws in the Maryland-Virginia-D.C. region are resulting in serious loss of life. Many advocate groups are pushing for more uniform road regulations, including seat belt enforcement, texting penalties, and heightened restrictions on teen drivers.
The call for stricter regulations is in reaction to the recent spike in traffic deaths in the metropolitan area. Nationally, 2011 saw the lowest point in highway deaths in more than 60 years. Traffic fatalities in Virginia, however, rose by 3.2%, and those in the District of Columbia increased by an alarming 13%. In the first nine months of 2012 there was a 7.1% increase in national traffic fatalities, the biggest statistical jump since 1975.
Much of the problem stems from the Capitol’s somewhat lax seat belt legislation. In D.C., police are unable to pull drivers over for not wearing their seat belt – tickets may only be given if drivers were pulled over for something else first. Virginia, however, passed a bill in 2010 allowing police to pull over and ticket drivers specifically for not wearing a seat belt. In Maryland, the fine for not wearing a seatbelt is $25 for a first offense. In D.C., the fine is $50.
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According to the Washington Post, seat belt use is higher in states with primary enforcement, meaning those states that allow police to pull over specifically for seat belt violations. Residents of primary law states, such as Maryland and Virginia, wear seat belts at an average rate of 85%, while those in non-primary law states, such as D.C., the rate drops to 75%.
An alliance of consumer, health, and safety groups, called the Advocates for Highways and Auto Safety, is speaking up about this growing problem. D.C. recently enacted 12 of the 15 safety laws suggested by the advocacy group, including regulations requiring an ignition interlock device for convicted drunk drivers. Maryland passed 10 of the suggested laws, and Virginia passed eight. The group’s 15 basic highway safety laws include increased guidelines on child and adult occupant protection, impaired and distracted driving, and teen driving.
As most American drivers are aware, law enforcement officers throughout the country are being ordered not to give any breaks on the roads. This is due to the immense need for revenue in many struggling states. In the D.C. metropolitan area, however, the discrepancy between basic traffic laws is causing confusion and a sense of injustice in many residents. Traffic congestion in the D.C. area even rivals the notorious L.A. gridlocks as daily commuters travel metropolitan roads. There are many highways throughout the area, the most famous being the Capital Beltway, which surrounds D.C. and passes through both Maryland and Virginia.
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Also known as Interstate 495, rush hour on the Capital Beltway became even more congested a few months ago when Virginia introduced new electronically tolled express lanes, after years of construction. The new lanes were built in a private-public partnership between Virginia and Fluor Transurban, and are offering drivers the option of bypassing regular rush hour traffic with use of an EZ-PASS. The lanes proved to be confusing to some drivers, causing a number of accidents in its first few weeks.
Maryland police have recently increased enforcement on the Capital Beltway. More than 250,000 motorists use the Maryland stretch of the interstate each day, and it has become known as the deadliest stretch of the Capital Beltway. An estimated 70% of fatal crashes on the interstate occur in the Maryland stretch.
For those living in the D.C. metropolitan area, unifying highway safety laws could put an end to a long-standing problem. Standards will be clear, and remain unchanged during daily commutes in and out of D.C. Auto accident lawyers hope that the establishment of uniform laws in the area will lead to a significant decrease in accident injuries and fatalities.