According to an April 25 ABC news report by Ben Eisler, a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that 16-year old drivers get in more accidents than any other age group. Only one-third of teens surveyed considered talking on the phone dangerous while driving. One in five admitted to texting while driving. Overall, girls were 15 percent more likely to engage in these risky behaviors than boys. Only two to three percent of teens surveyed admitted to drunk driving.
John Aaron, WTOP Radio, reported that according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), texting while driving is the number one killer of American teens. The not-for-profit Texting Awareness Foundation hopes that statistic will convince drivers to put away their phones when behind the wheel.
As part of Distracted Driver Awareness Month, the foundation released the following facts:
Answering a text takes the driver’s attention away from the road for about five seconds, enough time to travel the length of a football field.
When a driver is texting, steering capability decreases by 91 percent.
While texting, reaction time decreases by 35 percent.
About 6,000 deaths and a half a million injuries are caused by distracted drivers every year.
Text messaging increases crash risk 23 times more than driving under normal circumstances.
On November 29, the Montgomery County Council introduced Bill 37-11 that would allow installation of cameras on the outsides of County school buses to monitor vehicles that illegally pass stopped buses.
A public hearing on the bill was held January 24, and the public can still provide written comments to: Montgomery County Council, Office of Legislative Information Services, 5th Floor, Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Avenue., Rockville, MD 20850.
The Council bill is needed to locally enact Maryland State Senate Bill 679, which was passed by the 2011 General Assembly, and allowed cameras to be installed on the outside of County school buses. Drivers caught illegally passing a stopped school bus would be subject to a maximum civil fine of $250.
On October 5, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett joined several hundred parents, teachers, children and community members at Captain James E. Daly, Jr. Elementary School in Germantown to celebrate International Walk to School Day. This annual event attracts millions of participants around the world who promote safer streets, healthier habits and cleaner air.
Joining Leggett at this year’s County focus school were Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr, School Board Member Dr. Judith Docca, County Councilmembers Craig Rice and Hans Riemer and other dignitaries. Over 40 schools in Montgomery County celebrated the day with various activities.
Supporters of the event included the AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Foundation for Safety and Education, Federal Express, Montgomery County Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School, Safe Kids Montgomery County, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, Montgomery County Police, Maryland Safe Routes Network, Maryland Highway Safety Office and Captain James E. Daly, Jr. Elementary School.
Montgomery County is upgrading safety at schools, thanks, in part, to the federal Safe Routes to School program created in 2005. The program provides funding used by communities to create sidewalks and bike paths that allow children to safely walk or bike to school. Funding also supports enforcement and education campaigns. For more information, visit the County’s website.
(Taken from State Highway Administration News Release, September 30)
Beginning October 1, the State Highway Administration (SHA) and local governments will begin issuing warnings to those who illegally post signs along State-maintained highways. Beginning January 2012, jurisdictions will start fining offenders a $25 for each sign in order to recoup the costs of removing them from highways.
Illegal signs distract drivers and, in some cases, can impede drivers’ vision or block legal signs from view. They can also affect maintenance operations, interfere with the work of utility crews and mar the landscape along Maryland ’s scenic routes.
Along state highways – including interstates, U.S. and Maryland numbered routes – private signs are prohibited in the medians and along the sides on the public property or “right-of-way.” The illegal signs are often found attached to utility poles or stacked together on wooden posts littering medians.
This summer, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments ( COG ) held a driver recognition program to honor truck and bus drivers and their companies for reducing engine idling.
Using “street teams” of COG , American Bus Association and state government staff, thousands of promotional campaign items were distributed. The campaign resulted in 200 drivers being nominated, from which seven winners were selected.
The program is part of the regional Diesel Anti-Idling Campaign, which raises awareness among drivers and businesses of the economic and environmental benefits of turning off engines instead of idling. Learn more about the campaign at “Turn Your Engines Off.”
The Montgomery County Police Department continued its commitment to traffic and pedestrian safety with a new “Operation Safe Streets” enforcement initiative that kicked-off in early May.
Operation Safe Streets deploys officers from all six traffic squads on selected road corridors, in locations with a high number of pedestrian collisions, and in designated Safe Routes to Schools areas. Using several strategies, officers target a variety of traffic offenses committed by both drivers and pedestrians. These include speeding, turning violations, red light running, failure to obey traffic control devices, failure to yield to pedestrians and pedestrian violations at intersections. Both driver and pedestrian offenders receive citations.
Officers will continue to conduct this intensive enforcement on a regular basis throughout the year. For more information about the results of the most recent Operation Safe Streets, visit the County’s website.
Montgomery County Police participated in the national “Click It or Ticket” campaign during the month of May by aggressively enforcing Maryland’s seat belt laws.
Residents are reminded that the driver, front seat passenger and all other vehicle occupants under the age of 16 must wear a seat belt or be secured in a child restraint system (child safety seat or booster seat) while riding in a Maryland registered motor vehicle. The penalty for not wearing a seat belt is $25. The penalty for violating the child restraint law is $60.
Maryland law mandates that every child under eight years of age must be secured in a federally-approved and correctly used child restraint system, unless the child is 4’9” or taller, or weighs more than 65 pounds. Montgomery County Police recommend the use of seat belts for every motor vehicle passenger over the age and size requirements for use of child restraint systems.
Anyone not wearing a seat belt increases their risk for injury or even death. Drivers and passengers are urged to buckle up.
It’s that time of year when spring showers may bring much needed rain to get the growing season started. But, there is always the danger that heavy storms can cause flooding. Montgomery County has developed tips to help residents prepare for potential flooding and advice on what to do following a flood that may have caused damage.
Some helpful flooding facts are listed below:
Swiftly moving floodwaters only six inches deep can sweep you off your feet.
Nearly half of all flash flood fatalities are people in vehicles. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground.
Roads covered by floodwaters could already be washed away, so don’t drive across roads that are not visible.
The Montgomery County Police Department has developed a list of roads that have a history of flooding in severe rain storms.
On March 29, the Washington region launched its spring Street Smart pedestrian and bicyclist safety campaign. Sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments ( COG ) and the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB), the Street Smart public awareness and enforcement campaign is in its ninth year. Aimed at reducing the number of pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and deaths in the Washington metropolitan area, the campaign uses creative radio and television advertising in English and Spanish to reach drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, while targeting them through outdoor and transit advertising on bus shelters and bus sides. In addition, law enforcement and local, county and state agencies will be distributing handouts and tip cards to further spread awareness and educate drivers and pedestrians.
The Street Smart campaign materials and more information about Street Smart are available online, or follow the campaign on Twitter.
Since last October, Maryland law has required motorists to safely overtake a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device (EPAMD) or a motor scooter at a distance of at least three feet.
This passing rule does not apply if the highway on which the vehicle is being driven is not wide enough to lawfully pass the bicycle, EPAMD, or motor scooter at a distance of at least three feet. Additional exceptions are:
If the bicyclist fails to ride to the right;
If the bicyclist is in a bike lane; or
If the bicyclist, EPAMD or scooter doesn’t keep a steady course.
The law now requires vehicle operators to yield the right-of-way to bicyclists riding when entering or crossing occupied bike lanes and shoulders. Bicyclists are no longer required to ride on the shoulder. However, when riding at a speed slower than vehicle traffic, a bicyclist must still ride as near to the right of the roadway as practicable and safe, except when:
Making or attempting a left turn;
Riding on a one-way street;
Passing a stopped or slower-moving vehicle;
Avoiding pedestrians or road hazards;
Using a right lane that is a right-turn only lane; or
Operating in a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side-by-side within the lane.
When riding on a sidewalk, where such riding is permitted, a bicyclist may ride in a crosswalk to continue on their route. Motorists are required to yield the right of way to a bicyclist operating lawfully in a crosswalk at a signalized intersection.
During snowstorms, Montgomery County’s homepage features a “Winter Storm Information” graphic that links to up-to-the-minute news about the County’s storm response and provides useful links and information, including the County’s new snow map.
The best source of information on the County’s services continues to be the 311 telephone information line, which can be accessed by calling 311 (240-777-0311 from outside the County) or online at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/311. During storms or other emergencies, 311 operating hours are extended as needed.
Residents are encouraged to also sign up for Alert Montgomery, which delivers important emergency alerts, notifications and updates through an e-mail account (work, home, other); cell phone; text pager; BlackBerry; wireless PDA; or text message. Or, follow Montgomery County on Facebook or Twitter.
On January 31, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett sent a report to the County Council outlining recommendations for practical and appropriate ways of dealing with solicitors who sell goods, panhandle or solicit for charities from roadway medians or adjacent sidewalks. These solicitors not only endanger themselves, but also put motorists at risk. Leggett convened the Task Force last year to look at the problem.
Leggett has asked State legislators who served on the Task Force to introduce a bill in the current legislative session that would enable the County to establish a permit system for roadside solicitation. Solicitors without a County permit would be banned. Leggett asked for the County Council’s support for this legislation.
Residents should be aware that placing landscaping, such as river stones or planters, or structures, such as a decks, sheds, or fences, within the area on their property reserved for drainage is prohibited. These items can cause flooding downstream if they interfere with the drainage system.
Homeowners may not be aware that the deed to their property may have designated storm water or storm drain easements that handle water runoff. These easements reserve a swatch of land about 15 to 20 feet wide for drainage, either above or below ground. They are typically found in front of a house, running parallel to the road, but may also be in side or back yards.
Residents should check the deeds on their property for a drainage easement before building a structure or an addition or installing landscaping. To make changes to an easement location, residents must obtain a “revocable permit” from the Department of Permitting Services.
For more information about storm drain easements or permits to build on them, call 311, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Beginning in early spring, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s (MCDOT) Division of Transportation Engineering will rehabilitate the bridge that carries three westbound lanes of East Gude Drive over the railroad tracks owned by CSX and Metro (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority). An inspection of the bridge found that the concrete deck and substructure had deteriorated. The bridge carries about 20,600 vehicles a day.
During construction, which should take about a year to complete, two lanes of westbound traffic will be maintained at all times. Rehabilitation activities will include removing the existing bridge deck, cleaning and painting steel beams, replacing the bearings, and replacing parts of the abutments and piers. Construction will occur Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. , with some Saturday work.
The cost of the project is $1.8 million. More information about the project is available on the MCDOT’s website.
Not all roads in Montgomery County are maintained by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT). When it snows, several agencies and jurisdictions are out in force clearing snow and ice, and this can cause confusion for residents.
MCDOT clears more than 5,000 lane miles of County-maintained roads. All State-maintained, numbered roads (such as Georgia Avenue, Maryland Route 97 or Rockville Pike, Maryland Route 355) are cleared by the Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA). Other departments, outside agencies and governmental jurisdictions also have responsibility for plowing. They include the Montgomery County Board of Education; the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission; the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro); municipalities; and homeowner’s associations. Commercial parking lot owners plow their own properties and are prohibited from moving snow into the street.
The County’s new snow map indicates whether a road is maintained by the County or not. Or, call 311 to check on who plows your road.
Residents are reminded that effective October 1, Maryland’s new cell phone law went into effect which means it is illegal to hold and talk on a cell phone while driving. Texting while driving has been illegal for a year
The Communications Traffic Safety Act of 2010 prohibits “…a driver of a motor vehicle that is in motion from using the driver’s hands to use a handheld telephone except to initiate or terminate a wireless call or to turn on or off the handheld phone.” Violating the law may result in a $40 fine for a first offense and $100 fine for a second offense.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett celebrated the completion of a pedestrian refuge island on Grubb Road that is enhancing safety, not only for children at Rock Creek Forest Elementary School (ES), but for the entire community. This innovative improvement has successfully been used by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) in other locations and has proven to be effective in reducing motorist speeds and making it safer for pedestrians to cross. The project was initiated by a request from two members of the school’s Parent-Teacher Association. The school is located across Grubb Road from the Rock Creek Shopping Center, which is a popular destination for students and residents.
The pedestrian refuge island located between lanes of traffic provides pedestrians a safe place to wait for traffic to clear, reduces the crossing distance for pedestrians, and narrows travel lanes on the roadway to reduce vehicle speeds. MCDOT also installed a marked crosswalk, school crossing signs, “State Law: Stop for Pedestrians” signs, lane markings and raised pavement markers.
Before deciding to install the refuge island, MCDOT analyzed traffic volumes and speeds along Grubb Road. It found a high volume of traffic using the road, with 38 percent of vehicles traveling at 30 mph or more on the 25 mph road, and seven percent of vehicles traveling 35 mph or more. MCDOT will conduct a re-evaluation of traffic speeds this fall.
The following bills passed in the last legislative session will promote alternative transportation and improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. Members of the Montgomery County delegation were prime sponsors of bills 1), 2) and 5) listed below.
All the bills went into effect October 1, except Chapter 525, which went into effect on July 1. The bills are:
Bicycle Safety: Chapter Number 517 requires motorists to provide cyclists a three-foot buffer when passing on a roadway.
Bicycles and Motor Scooters - Rules of the Road: Chapter Number 518recognizes bicyclists and motor scooter riders as legitimate road users and helps bring Maryland law in conformity with the vast majority of other states.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Access, Funding and Reporting: Chapter Number 145 declares that it is the policy of the State that, in developing the annual Consolidated Transportation Program, the Maryland Department of Transportation will work to ensure that there is a balance between funding for specified transportation projects for pedestrians and bicycle riders and specified highway construction projects.
Smarter Transportation Choices for Maryland Bill: Senate Bill 760 and House Bill 1155requires the Maryland Department of Transportation to evaluate all State-funded transportation projects against existing state transportation goals, which include safety and security, environmental stewardship, and fixing existing roads and bridges first.
Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding: Chapter 525establishes a Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding that will review, evaluate and make recommendations concerning funding sources and structure of the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund. The commission will also look at short- and long-term transit, highway, pedestrian and bicycle facility construction and maintenance funding needs; the impacts of economic development and smart growth on transportation funding and options for sustainable, long–term revenue sources for transportation.
Sidewalk or Bicycle Pathway Construction: Chapter Number 700requires the State Highway Administration to give funding priority to sidewalk or bicycle pathway construction projects that are located in a priority funding area. It also authorizes the State to fund the entire cost of specified sidewalks or bicycle pathways.
Another summer storm caused widespread damage in Montgomery County on August 12. The storm left about 75,000 customers without power, 32 roads closed and localized flooding in its wake. Many County facilities and traffic signals also lost power.
By law, County staff cannot touch trees entangled in power lines – only the power utility crews can do so. During the storm aftermath, County crews worked in tandem with Pepco crews. As soon as Pepco removed wires or cut power to downed utility lines, County crews worked quickly to clear roads of debris and get traffic moving again. Pepco also employs tree crews who remove downed trees or cut down ones damaged by the storm.
Residents can report downed trees or tree debris in the public right-of-way by calling 311, or going to the 311 website at http://montgomerycountymd.gov/311. The 311 call center handles all non-emergency service or information requests. Normal hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Communication during an emergency is critically important. Residents are urged to register for Alert Montgomery, which sends messages about severe weather, traffic problems or emergencies directly to cell phones, PDAs and emails. It will take less than five minutes to sign up for this critical service on the County’s website. News and the most recent updates are also available on the County’s Facebook page and through Twitter. To sign up, go to the County’s website.
On Sunday, July 25, the County was struck by a sudden and violent summer storm that knocked out power to almost 220,000 Pepco customers (out of a total of 302,000). Food safety tips and tips for disposing of spoiled food are on the County’s website. The power loss impacted some 330 traffic signals (out of a total of 750). More than 250 roads were closed due to downed trees. The Potomac Water Treatment Plant, which provides about 70 percent of Montgomery County’s water, lost power, requiring an immediate ban on outdoor water use. Rockville City’s water system was impacted and Shady Grove Hospital lost power. Many County facilities also lost power. The Aspen Hill, Kensington, Silver Spring and Bethesda areas were hardest hit.
The County sprang into action, activating the Emergency Operations Center, opening the 3-1-1 Call Center to work around the clock, opening shelters for those without power, and responding to critical needs and damage immediately.
Police officers directed traffic at main intersections and the Department of Transportation (MCDOT) Traffic Engineering Division deployed temporary stop signs to other locations. MCDOT Highway Services crews mobilized to remove downed trees and branches from public right-of-ways. Because MCDOT cannot touch trees entangled in power lines, County crews waited for Pepco to clear the power lines and make sure it was safe.
Residents were urged to treat all intersections without working traffic signals as four-way stops. Stop – then proceed cautiously. Visit the County’s website for information on the disposal of trees and branches from residents’ private property.
An emergency like this one further highlights how important communication is during a crisis. Residents are urged to register for Alert Montgomery, which sends messages about severe weather, traffic problems or emergencies directly to cell phones, PDAs and emails. It will take less than five minutes to sign up for this critical service on the County’s website. News and the most recent updates are also available on the County’s Facebook page and through Twitter. Go to the County’s website to sign up.
The Montgomery County Police Department is once again participating in the regional “Smooth Operator” campaign, which began Sunday, June 6, and will take place one week out of each of the summer months and two weeks in September.
The campaign targets aggressive drivers in Maryland, Northern Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Pennsylvania. Aggressive driving behaviors include: speeding, tailgating, unsafe lane changing, failing to yield the right-of-way, and running red lights and stop signs.
The 2010 campaign will take place during the following weeks:
July 4 – 10
August 1 – 7
September 5 – 18
During these waves, Montgomery County Police will be especially committed to enforcing aggressive driving laws and traffic violations.
Drivers and pedestrians are urged to be extremely cautious when approaching any road work site while the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) or other agencies make much needed improvements to the transportation infrastructure. Repair work underway means personnel and construction vehicles are moving around the site, or construction materials may be stored in the area. When driving through the area, follow the direction of flaggers and temporary signs and traffic control devices.
For a listing of selected construction or maintenance activities affecting traffic, bike, and pedestrian travel, visit MCDOT's website.