Is passing on the right really that safe, or was that even considered?
At a recent public meeting held by Del. Deb Rey (R-St. Mary’s), we learned that Maryland had just finalized a new law permitting passing on the right, to avoid having to stop behind a left-turning vehicle. It is to go into effect later in the year. Going around a left-turning vehicle by crossing over the solid white line and passing on the right using the shoulder lane will be permitted with few exceptions in HB 1456. Two safety features required under the new law are that there be an unobstructed view to pass and that no vehicles be parked in the shoulder.
The legislative record indicates that under existing law, 3,466 citations were issued in FY 2016 for driving off the roadway while passing to the right. There is no information provided on the number of injuries, deaths or motor vehicle damages resulting from passing on the right whether or not a citation was issued.
Apparently, the impact on anything other than the state’s bank account was not considered. In this county alone, I can recall at least two fatal accidents in recent years that were caused by left-turning vehicles being clipped by vehicles passing on the right, thus pushing them into oncoming traffic.
As a frequent driver ... over the years I have observed the following kinds of traffic in the shoulder lanes: children playing; horse-drawn Amish conveyances; many forms of bicyclists from competitors flying along in tightly packed groups to single, casual bicyclists; families and individuals on foot out for a stroll and often with their pets; people pushing baby carriages; four-wheelers cruising at both slow and very high speeds; deer, birds and other animals; joggers; and slow-moving motor vehicles. I have also observed the intent of some drivers who appear to be hell bent for leather to get from point A to point B within the minimally possible elapsed time. I confess that maybe that is me on occasion. And I have also noted that some drivers will use the shoulder lane at high speeds, not aware that the car in front of them is about to do the same thing to avoid slowing down for a left-turning car. At night, it is particularly hard to see activity in the right shoulder.
Perhaps somebody should begin GoFundMe accounts now to help the survivors of the inevitable accidents that will occur directly because of this new law and driver error. Given the fact that thousands of citations were issued in just one year when it was illegal to pass on the right, can you imagine how many times it will occur when it is no longer specifically illegal?
Perhaps the legislature and the governor should take a hard, traffic safety-based look at this new law before it goes into effect, and if warranted, repeal it before more people are hurt or killed.
Arlie Bryan Siebert, Scotland