Why is the Beltway So Dangerous?June 21, 2021
The Baltimore Beltway, a 53-mile stretch of highway circling the city of Baltimore, is one of the most heavily trafficked roads in the state. An estimated 500,000 motorists travel the Beltway every day. Heavy traffic, multiple lanes, and distracted drivers also make it one of the most dangerous throughfares in the Interstate Highway System.
According to the most recent crash data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were more than 500 fatal car accidents in Maryland in 2019. Unfortunately, dangerous driving behaviors are only going up. This discussion explains why the Beltway is so hazardous and what can be done to prevent serious traffic accidents and personal injury and save lives going forward.
Multiple Lanes and Merging Vehicles
The Baltimore Beltway consists of sections of two-, three-, and four-lane stretches. Accidents are common in areas where lanes merge or expand and cars are forced to switch lanes at high speeds. As cars weave in and out of lanes, other vehicles and trucks are also entering the Beltway from surrounding roads, only adding to the chaos and increasing the risk of collisions, including truck accidents.
Rear-End Truck Accidents in Maryland
As bottlenecks develop in different areas of the Baltimore Beltway, the risk of a rear-end accident goes up, especially when enormous multi-ton tractor trailers are involved. Commercial trucks require more time and distance to come to a stop compared with smaller vehicles.
That is a problem in start-and-stop traffic common on congested highways such as the Beltway. An 18-wheeler that cannot stop in time is like a dangerous weapon barreling toward the vehicle ahead. And if the truck is moving at a high rate of speed on impact, the passengers in the leading vehicle are more likely to suffer serious injuries.
Pandemic Surge in Speeding Drivers
One surprising effect of the recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is the increase in speeding drivers across Maryland and the United States. The Maryland State Police noticed a rise in speeding despite the decrease in drivers on the road. At the height of the economic downturn related to the spread of COVID-19, traffic was down by as much as 52 percent.
Around the same period from March to June 2020, speed cameras detected 6,929 drivers traveling 67 miles per hour or above on one particular stretch of highway. The year before, the same speed cameras detected 2,768 drivers going that fast. That is a 150 percent increase in speeding after COVID-19.
Less Traffic and More Speeding on the Beltway
How do law enforcement officials and highway safety experts explain the connection between fewer drivers and more dangerous driving habits? Although it is impossible to say for sure, they suspect the rise in speeding has a few common causes.
First, the added anxiety and frustration caused by the pandemic may lead drivers to drive more aggressively. People have been relegated to stay at home, maybe lost their jobs, become ill or experienced illness in the family, and those stressors take a toll.
Also, with fewer cars on the road, drivers have greater visibility and more room to treat the Beltway like their own private racetrack. For nearly a year, the typical rush hour congestion on the Beltway was virtually nonexistent. That open space tempts some drivers to take more chances than usual.
Speeding Increases the Risk of Accidents and Serious Injuries
The NHTSA estimates speeding is a factor in around one-third of all fatal motor vehicle accidents. It all comes down to physics. Vehicles traveling at a higher rate of speed have less time to stop, react, and avoid a collision. Speed increases the force of impact, and if the occupants in the vehicles absorb part of that force, they are likely to be hurt. Excessive speeds also reduce the effectiveness of protective equipment such as airbags and seat belts.
Common Beltway Accident Injuries
High-speed highway accidents can cause a wide range of painful and debilitating physical injuries. Some of the most common car accident injuries include the following:
Broken bones. Breaks of the bones in the arms, legs, hips, and shoulders occur in all types of car accidents, including T-bone and rear-end collisions. Broken bones can be quite painful, and some require invasive surgery and long recovery periods.
Back and neck injuries. On impact, the delicate vertebrae of the spine can shift out of alignment, leading to severe pain that makes simple activities such as sitting, standing, or bending over extremely painful. Damage to the muscle and/or tissue throughout the neck and back can lead to chronic pain, numbness, or weakness at the site of injury or throughout the body.
Cuts and scrapes. Any time the body collides with another object, lacerations can occur. The driver or passenger can slam into the vehicle’s interior, broken glass, or an object that becomes a projectile on impact. More extensive lacerations can lead to amputations, and all cuts and scrapes invite dangerous infections into the body.
Head injuries. When a vehicle slams into another vehicle, structure, or other object, the body may be restrained by the seat belt, but the head suddenly jolts forward and backward, or even slams into the vehicle or another passenger. That can lead to concussion and other serious head injuries. Brain damage varies in severity but can lead to long-term cognitive or physical impairment.
Internal bleeding. Because internal bleeding and other invisible or delayed injuries are not immediately apparent after a car accident, they can be missed until it is too late. Internal bleeding can lead to organ failure and even death if left untreated. Even if someone who has been in a car accident feels okay, it is important to get checked out by a doctor to rule out serious injury.
Whiplash. Whiplash is a neck injury caused by forceful back and forth movement of the head, as in a car accident.
Symptoms of whiplash include the following:
- Neck stiffness and pain
- Limited range of motion in the neck
- Arm numbness or tingling
- Headaches originating at the base of the skull
- Pain that increases with movement of the neck
Whiplash is a common, painful car accident injury that can take weeks, months, or even years to heal.
The Emotional Impact of a Serious Car Accident
This discussion is just a limited overview of the many injuries that can happen as a result of a car accident. But traffic collisions also have an effect on a person’s mental and emotional health and wellness. Living with chronic pain or having to endure surgery, hospitalizations, and rehabilitation leads to depression and anxiety in some people. Others experience lasting mental trauma, sleep disturbances, flashbacks, and paralyzing fear after being in a catastrophic collision.
Claims for Maryland Beltway Accidents
An insurance claim helps accident victims recover money for harm one endures because of another’s reckless act. In the case of a Beltway car accident, that harm can represent many different types of losses. Maryland auto tort law allows negligent drivers to be held liable for the harm they cause, awarding damages to car accident victims for the following:
- Medical costs: These costs include expenses related to a car accident victim’s hospitalization, surgery, office visits, medications, and rehabilitation.
- Lost wages: These damages include compensation for income the injured individual has lost because of mental or physical conditions that left them unable to work.
- Pain and suffering: An award for pain and suffering allows financial compensation for the physical and emotional pain and trauma caused by a serious car accident on the Beltway or throughout the state of Maryland.
Why Should I Hire a Lawyer after a Beltway Accident in Maryland?
Anyone with physical injuries, mental trauma, or property damage after a traffic accident on the Beltway should schedule a consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer to learn their rights and legal options.
Accidents that cause catastrophic injuries, or even death, may involve losses that exceed insurance policy limits. That is where a skilled lawyer is invaluable. They will file a lawsuit on the plaintiff’s behalf for the maximum compensation possible.
Every legal strategy begins with an initial case review. Then, the lawyer is able to review the facts of the case; explain the client’s options; and recommend an approach that makes sense for the client, their experience, and their goals.
To find the right lawyer to handle a complex Beltway accident case, a driver can read online reviews, ask a friend or family member for recommendations, and look for a firm that has a proven track record of success advocating for their clients.
Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Clients Injured in Maryland Beltway Accidents
There is no denying a serious traffic accident can be devastating in so many ways: physically, emotionally, financially, and legally. But victims can pursue justice. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, reach out to the Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We have successfully recovered more than $250 million for clients injured in accidents on the Beltway and across the state. Call us at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online for a free consultation.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.