New laws aim to keep all safe on roadways
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.