New laws aim to keep all safe on road­ways

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Some­times, new traf­fic laws re­flect what peo­ple are al­ready do­ing any­way. Some­times, they are a leg­is­la­tion of com­mon sense. Other times, new laws bring mean­ing­ful change.

There’s a mix­ture of that in new Mary­land laws that were passed by the Gen­eral Assem­bly ear­lier this year that went into ef­fect on Sun­day, Oct. 1.

One of those new laws is spe­cific only to St. Mary’s County, and even to just one small sec­tion of it. Golf carts can now be legally driven along the neigh­bor­hood streets of Golden Beach, where there are more than 1,000 homes. Some streets there where the speed limit is 40 mph have been re­duced to 35 mph. This law is not in­tended as a pi­lot pro­gram for golf carts any­where else, the county com­mis­sion­ers said last week by way of clar­i­fi­ca­tion, but a unique sit­u­a­tion for that north­ern St. Mary’s neigh­bor­hood.

An­other new traf­fic law might come as a sur­prise to some driv­ers, since many of us al­ready have been do­ing it for years. If some­one is mak­ing a left turn, you may now legally pass that ve­hi­cle on the right if the shoul­der is paved. You can­not pass if the shoul­der is gravel or soft. The law pre­vi­ously had been that you could never pass on the right un­less there was a des­ig­nated go-around lane, set off with dot­ted lines. You were never to pass on the right across a solid white line, re­gard­less of whether the shoul­der was paved.

It makes sense to cod­ify that new pass­ing law, since it’s a ma­neu­ver that’s made safely on our roads many times a day.

An­other new law says that fog lights alone are not suf­fi­cient on rainy days, when wind­shield wipers are in op­er­a­tion. This tight­ens up a previous law in Mar yland to mean this: If you use your wind­shield wipers, you must have your head­lights turned on. It’s a good law based on a vis­i­bil­ity is­sue. Even if you can see fine, of course, you want other driv­ers to see you. So turn on your head­lights, not just the fog lights.

Have you ever been fol­low­ing a truck, only to get a cloud of diesel smoke puffed your way when it ac­cel­er­ates? There’s a name for that — “coal rolling” — and it’s now il­le­gal as of this week. The law pro­hibits diesel-pow­ered ve­hi­cles from re­leas­ing vis­i­ble clouds of smoke, or ex­haust emis­sions, onto an­other per­son or ve­hi­cle. That now car­ries a $500 max­i­mum fine. The prac­tice is the re­sult of re­mov­ing emis­sion-con­trol­ling parts of the en­gine to shoot out ex­tra smoke. That’s out now.

An­other change re­flects the grow­ing prob­lem of drugged driv­ing fa­tal­i­ties, and the state’s at­tempt to de­ter it with stiffer jail time. First-time of­fend­ers con­victed of ve­hic­u­lar homi­cide while im­paired by a con­trolled dan­ger­ous sub­stance now face a max­i­mum of five years, up from three. Re­peat of­fend­ers can be sen­tenced up to 10 years, up from five.

Here’s an­other good call, which those who com­mute out of the county ev­ery day can ap­pre­ci­ate. Tow trucks are now al­lowed to travel in HOV lanes to re­spond to ser­vice calls, even if the only oc­cu­pant is the driver. That fig­ures to help clear up ac­ci­dents and in­ci­dents more quickly.

So take note of the new laws that went into ef­fect this week on our road­ways, and be care­ful out there.

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