Monday, February 7, 2011

Maryland Pedestrians Beware

Why is it that many times the columns in the newspaper that we read the most are written by authors who we like the least? When it comes to the Ravens I can't stand Mike Preston but I always read his column. Another columnist who continuously rubs me the wrong way is Michael Dresser but, once again, I read his column more than just about any other in the Baltimore Sun. He covers issues ranging from DUI law to bicyclists. His last column claimed that Maryland was one of the most dangerous states for pedestrians. I think I agree with Mr. Dresser.

How could I not agree with him there is empirical evidence in support of his position. The Governors Highway Safety Association recently released a report showing that Maryland is one of only four states where more than twenty percent of all road fatalities involve a pedestrian. Maryland is also one of only four where the pedestrian fatality rate is more than 2 per 100,000 residents each year. There have been between 91 and 116 pedestrian deaths each year since 1991. Some blame the high numbers on the compact nature of Baltimore City others blame drivers' attitudes toward pedestrians. In other states drivers slow down when a pedestrian enters a crosswalk, as opposed to Baltimore where it seems more likely that a motorist would hit the gas.

A ticket for a motorist who fails to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk carries a $90 fine. In a world where a round of drinks or a nice bottle of wine can quickly approach $100, wouldn't a higher fine be more appropriate considering the possible consequences? After all, the fine for passing a school bus with flashing red lights is $570. The two offenses seem similar but their fines do not reflect the same. New York recently adopted the "Ellie's Law" statute. The statute was named after a three year old girl who, while in a crosswalk, was struck and left in a coma by a motorists in an SUV reversing to claim a parking spot. The law automatically suspends the license of any driver who strikes a pedestrian while driving recklessly. Maryland laws do not go so far, however, aggressive litigation against the motorists on behalf of the injured will discourage motorists' indifference towards pedestrians and at the same time help recover damages for any treatment and pain and suffering. Portner & Shure handles many cases involving pedestrians each year and refuses to accept negligent driver's excuses or claims of contributory negligence.

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