Did you know that a car accident happens about every 5 seconds? And somebody suffers a personal injury from a car accident every 10 seconds? And worse yet, somebody is killed due to wrongful death in a car accident every 14 minutes!
Those are staggering numbers. And we should all do everything we can do to reduce the number of personal injuries and deaths that occur because of car accidents in southern Maryland.
In an attempt to reduce the number of personal injuries and deaths that occur because of car accidents in Maryland, we are creating this series on odd or unusual rules of the road you probably don’t remember, or maybe didn’t even know about.
Remember when you learned them during Drivers’ Ed classes when you were 16? Yeah. Me neither. So please give this post a quick read so you can be a better driver, and we can all drive a little safer.
Bicycles are vehicles and are allowed to use the same roadways. You have to slow down if they are out in the roadway. Bicycles must obey all the normal laws on the roadway. Watch for hand turn signals and give any biker a wide berth when passing.
If a farmer has a regular livestock crossing he can petition the county for a sign, and then you have to stop for crossing livestock at that location. (Practically speaking, you should stop anyway so you don’t broadside a cow! You may laugh, but I have represented a guy in a personal injury case who hit a horse on a foggy morning.)
I swear some people still don’t know how to act when an emergency vehicle comes by with it’s lights on.
- Any emergency vehicle with siren & lights on has the right of way. Yield to it always.
- Pull over to the shoulder. This is required by law. Don’t just slow down. Pull over.
- If you are passing an emergency vehicle on the shoulder, pull into the next lane over (if possible) to give them a wide berth. This is a relatively new law in Maryland.
The vehicles in the procession must have their headlights on and hazards flashing. If they do, you must yield right of way. That includes at red stoplights. They can run the light. You have to yield.
There is no minimum speed limit. I always heard that growing up but it isn’t true. You do have to go fast enough “not to impede the normal flow of traffic”, which is not defined.
And you may not always be able to go the speed limit. You have to drive a speed safe for conditions. Some special restrictions apply even when there is no sign.
- 15 mph in alleyways
- 30 mph in business districts & undivided highways in residential neighborhoods
- 35 mph on a divided highway in a residential neighborhood
- 30 mph – special law in St. Mary’s County where you can post a limit of 30 mph and it applies to all side roads in that subdivision.
You generally cannot ride in a cargo area, including the bed of a pickup truck. You can’t ride in a mobile home that is being towed. There are exceptions for legitimate farming operations, vehicles going less than 25 mph, and Department of Defense vehicles (interestingly).
This gets tricky, because technically pedestrians don’t always have the right of way. However, my strong advice is to just act like they do – always.
No matter how stupid they are acting, you don’t want to hit a pedestrian! You will get sued, and nobody will believe your story, and even if you get off in civil court you could face criminal charges. Not worth it! Just yield to pedestrians always. It is safer that way.
Right of Way
Here are some general rules for who has right of way at an intersection:
- A driver who arrives before you at an intersection.
- A driver in the opposite lane of traffic when you are making a left turn.
- A driver on your right, of both of you arrive at an intersection at the same time. (I can never remember this rule so I always waive the other driver on.)
- A driver on a public road, if you are entering from a private road or driveway.
- A driver already on a limited access highway (like an interstate) if you are trying to get on the highway.
- A driver on your right at a four way stop.
- A pedestrian, bicyclist, or other driver who is already in the intersection.
- Drivers on a through highway if you are at a T intersection.
- Any time you have a yield sign.
I am sure you know you have to stop if a train is approaching and lights are flashing, but do you know there is a legal minimum distance? You cannot stop closer than 15 feet from a rail crossing. That is one full car length. And you have to stop within 50 feet of the crossing (about 3 car lengths), so you cannot just stay way far back either.
Stopping at Sidewalks
When exiting any alley, building or driveway you have to come to a stop before the sidewalk and look for pedestrians. This is not the same as stopping before entering the road. You have to stop before the sidewalk. And then you have to stop before entering the road. Two stops. Betcha didn’t know that. (I didn’t.)
Slow Moving Vehicles
This applies to those Amish buggies we have in southern Maryland. They drive on the shoulder, but you have to treat them like they are on the highway. They have a right to be. You have to pass them slowly and safely. A slow moving vehicle traveling less than 25 mph is supposed to have the slow moving sign (orange triangle pointed up).
- Coasting of a vehicle is not allowed. You have to have the gears or transmission engaged even if coasting downhill and not stepping on the gas.
- You cannot drive over a fire hose. The one exception is if you are told to by a fireman.
- You cannot turn off your lights to avoid detection at night.
- You cannot open your door while on the side of the road unless you have checked and the way is clear to do so.
- You cannot have an obstacle causing an obstructed view for the driver. This is not specifically defined, so the police can decide on a case by case basis.
- You cannot purposely skid or spin tires.
- You cannot cause too much noise by operation of your car. The offending level of noise is not defined so the police can enforce it as they see fit.
- You cannot move or remove any light or guard placed to close down a section of road.
- You cannot dispense fuel from a retail pump into a dirt bike. I don’t get this one.
- You cannot purposely discharge smoke from your diesel vehicle. I once knew a guy who called this “smoking” other cars. He liked to do it a lot.
- You cannot watch TV in your car. Any video display has to be turned away from the driver.
- You cannot blast your car stereo if the sound is heard outside the vehicle from 50 feet away. I know some teenagers in my neighborhood that routinely violate this law!
Conclusion & Next Steps
If you agree that we all need safer streets and less personal injuries from car accidents, please feel free to share this post with your friends and family.
And if you are unfortunate enough to be injured in a car accident in Maryland, read our Free Legal Guide on Car Accidents to find out what you need to know. Get answer today. Know your options. Be informed. Protect yourself.