Maryland lawmakers vote to increase penalties for drivers using cellphones

By Jenna Johnson, Washington Post

The Maryland General Assembly approved legislation Monday that will stiffen penalties for drivers who cause fatal or serious crashes while talking on a cellphone or texting. The legislation now goes to the governor to be signed.

The Maryland House of Delegates and Senate had passed different versions of the legislation, but in a compromise reached on the last day of the session, lawmakers agreed to these conditions: The law would apply to drivers using a cellphone in a variety of ways, not just texting. Those found guilty would face up to one year in jail and a fine of as much as $5,000. And prosecutors could charge drivers with this law in addition to other laws.

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House OKs jail time for drivers who kill while on cell phones

By Michael Dresser, Baltimore Sun

The House of Delegates approved a bill Friday that would allow a judge to give up to a year's sentence to a driver who negligently kills or seriously injures someone while texting or speaking on a hand-held cellphone.

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So what would it look like if we had to obey both cycling laws and slow moving vehicle laws?


So in my conversations with SHA they stated something along the lines "You don't get to pick and choose what traffic laws you have to obey. So slow moving vehicle laws apply to cyclists." But I've always looked at cycling laws as a of clarification of slow moving vehicle law for cyclists. Slow moving vehicle law has "right-hand lane" or "as close as practicable to the right" and cycling laws basically have the same thing but with better explanations when one or the other can be applied. Not to mention the abundance of material that explains how bicycling law should be applied for safety. The from out of nowhere SHA pulls out the so called "requirement" that cyclists must obey slow moving threatens to mess that all up.

So why bring up up slow moving vehicle law at all? Is it just another excuse to say something close to "cyclists need to stay out of the way of cars"? How about SHA needs to build us nice cycling facilities so we could be out of the way of cars? For me this is just a victim blaming thing. Public roads are public space and need to be shared by the public. And everyone needs to be clear on the rules and MDOT has a habit of trying to mess up those rules.

When I was a kid I rode to the right and no big deal, motorists were respectful of my presence. When I got back on the bike in 2000 right hooks and close passing galore. So I found out about "taking the lane" and the problem virtually went away. Again overly stressing cyclist must ride far right is another victim blaming thing. If motorists were polite, courteous and thoughtful to cyclists there may have never been the need to make "taking the lane" lawful for cyclists.

Taking the lane is no more rude than motorists who follow other motorists at a safe 2 second distance. Sure everyone tailgates nowadays and when I drive with a safe following distance I upset drivers behind me but the extra buffer space has saved me (and those following me) from a crash on more than one occasion. Likewise "taking the lane has helped me avoid being in an crash multiple times.

Promoting cyclists must ride right under the unspoken pretence that traffic moves faster that way would be like promoting tailgating to help traffic move faster. Not only is there no net improvement in the flow of traffic more crashes result and crashes are a major source of delays, just listen to the radio during rush hour. (BTW I never hear about safety campaigns or enforcement efforts to crack down on tailgating so in a way it is promoted.)

So what would guidance look like if we had to obey slow moving vehicle law?
So in trying to follow SHA's logic that we can't pick and choose what laws we need to obey I have to start off with choosing to ignoring the following to get close to SHA's statements.
What SHA chooses to ignore:
  • § 21-1202.1 which I take to mean if the bicycle subtitle covers bicycles going slower than the speed limit so therefore other sections in traffic law that cover going slower than the speed limit don't apply.
  • The slow moving vehicle law that says: shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic or...

So everyone grab their speedometers because they will be necessary to follow these set of rules and let's see what kind of farce SHA has in store for us.

Here is a chart that shows what rules are applicable based on your speed in relation to the speed limit.


Slow Moving Vehicle LawBicycling LawRegular Vehicle Law
How far rightas close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway (sans "and safe")as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable and safe (when applicable)n/a
When required to ride far rightAlwaysOnly in a lane that is wide enough to share (13'-14' or greater), that is not a right turn only lane, on a two way street and the cyclist is not preparing to turn left or the cyclists is avoiding hazards. (Not many streets fit this criteria.)n/a
Shoulder useMandatory regardless of conditionOptional unless speed limit is greater than 50 MPH then shoulder use is requiredDiscouraged
Special equipment a slow moving vehicle emblem unless you average 25 MPH or better*n/an/a
When making a left turnFrom the right side onlyMay use the left side for traffic in that directionMust use the left side for traffic in that direction
One way streetStay on the rightMay use the left side n/a
Avoiding pedestrians or road hazardsNot clearMay move left to avoidWhatever is deemed appropriate to avoid.
The right lane is a right turn only laneStay on the rightMay ride further leftAvoid (unless turning)
Operating in a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle or motor scooter and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the laneStay on the rightMay use the full laneUse the full lane
* If your average is 12 mph for example and you are traveling on 25 mph roads you never become a slow moving vehicle so no a slow moving vehicle emblem is required.
Have you ever seen such a complicated mess before?
As I said a complete and utter farce and only designed to confuse everyone on the road so cyclists will be continued to be harassed. Of course none of this would be asserted if you understand slow moving vehicle law as saying shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic.

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The best of MDOT's WTF

When talking about the new 'Bikes May use the Full Lane" sign

bicyclists traveling more than 10 mph under the posted speed limit are considered slow moving vehicles and should stay as far to the right as possible

Even if we have a sign saying we may use the full lane we have to ride to the right if we are slow? And is it really too much to ask to have this clarified?

When introducing our new 3' foot safe passing law

The law says the bicyclist has the responsibility to move aside and let you pass.

There is no such law for cyclists, motor vehicles capable of doing the speed limit yes but not cyclists. But even so there has to be space to move aside.

And MDOT still insists this is 100% correct and is a good paraphrase of a cyclist failing to ride lawfully (not in compliance with § 21-1205).

A 3 foot passing distance is required unless... the bicyclist fails to ride to the right,

Am I the only one who is detecting a theme here? While MDOT has been good at correcting stuff online they are horrible at correcting "little" meda slip ups. My impression of the first two slip ups are the result of trying to get some vehicle code that does does not apply to cyclist to apply to cyclists. It would have been nice if they corrected the misunderstanding in the Capital Gazette (first quote) by simply clarifying that even slow cyclists can legally use the full lane when the lane is narrow. But it seems they have dug in their heels and will only go as far as replacing "as far right as possible" with "as far right as practicable and safe" for slow cyclists. Well I have news for you MDOT the latter phrase is from the bicycle code and NOT the slow moving vehicle code, that should be a hint that the slow moving vehicle law does not apply.

Art. 6. That all persons invested with the Legislative or Executive powers of Government are the Trustees of the Public, and, as such, accountable for their conduct: Wherefore, whenever the ends of Government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered... - Maryland Declaration of Rights

Are not our personal liberties endangered if MDOT puts out contradictory messages? Is not failing to correct an error in the original source of publication failing the public trust? I have gone to too much work just to get MDOT to clarify that even slow cyclist can use the full lane if it is too narrow. I am now trying to investigate other options if anyone knows a good lawyer that could handle this let me know.
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CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: The Orphaned Right: The Right to Travel by Automobile, 1890-1950

By : Roger I. Roots, J.D., Ph.D.

"The right to make use of an automobile as a vehicle of travel," wrote Justice Ladd, "is no longer an open question." n39 "The owners thereof have the same rights in the roads and streets as the drivers of horses or those riding a bicycle or traveling by some other vehicle."

The Kansas Supreme Court struck down the Topeka ordinance and reversed Swift's conviction, declaring that [each] citizen has the absolute right to choose for himself the mode of conveyance he desires, whether it be by wagon or carriage, by horse, motor or electric car, or by bicycle, or astride of a horse, subject to the sole condition that he will observe all those requirements that are known as the "law of the road."

The right to travel by the vehicle of one's choice was thought to be as important as any personal freedom recognized under the Constitution.

The ninety and nine of every hundred people of this and other countries will not abandon the public thoroughfares to a single class comprising less than 1 per cent of all the population. If a selfish, reckless, and indulgent class must run faster than the majority of mankind, let them build their speedways and kill each other if they will, but they must not be permitted to continue to terrorize and kill the people whose toil and tax maintain the public thoroughfares.

Representative Cousins stated that fines and arrests did little to deter speeders, who simply paid the fines and continued speeding. n98 "Horrible and gruesome incidents are of almost daily occurrence," and the recklessness of automobilists "has bespattered boulevards with blood." n99 Representative Cousins went on to state, it should be said in justice to many automobilists, that after running over people they have stopped and rendered quick assistance and have furnished flowers for the funerals of their victims, although in a great many instances it appears that the greatest utility which high-speed gearing accomplishes is getting away from the corpse before the machine numbers can be detected.
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[B' Spokes: If I am reading this right "the community’s general sense of right and wrong" is that it is perfectly fine to pass a cyclist via the oncoming lane with limited visibility (motorist can't see past the crest of a hill.). I think we need to get on MVA's case to provide better instruction if that is indeed the case.]

December 21, 2011
The Honorable Joseph I. Cassilly
State’s Attorney for Harford County

The New York court also differentiated between “negligence,” as used in civil cases, and “criminal negligence”:

Criminal liability cannot be predicated on every act of carelessness resulting in death ..... The carelessness required for criminal negligence is appreciably more serious than that for ordinary civil negligence[;]the carelessness “must be such that its seriousness would be apparent to anyone who share[s] the community’s general sense of right and wrong”.... Criminal negligence thus requires “some serious blameworthiness in the conduct that caused [the death]”... or some culpable “risk creation” ....
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Support the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act!

By the league of American Bicyclists

The United States should have a national goal to reduce the number of bicyclists and pedestrians killed on our roadways. 

Please ask your Senators and Representative to co-sponsor HR 3494/S 1708 to institute a nonmotorized safety performance measure.

It seems like a common sense request, but US DOT and the Federal Highway Administration has refused to set a performance measure to reduce bicycle and pedestrian deaths. We are now asking Congress to require such a measure.

Here's why:

  •  MAP-21, the new federal transportation law, requires USDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to establish safety performance measures for states to meet - but, no performance measure related to the safety of people who bike and walk is currently being considered by FHWA.
  • The number of bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities has risen for the past two years (2010 and 2011) while overall traffic deaths have gone down quite dramatically — that means the percentage of fatalities that are bike/ped has risen from 12% to nearly 16%.
  •  MAP-21 almost doubled the amount of funding available for the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), a program run by state Departments of Transportation. Unfortunately, that program has woefully small investments in bike/ped safety projects: Only seven states have spent any of these funds on bike/ped projects, and combined they've spent less than 0.5% of the funds annually.

​Without a specific performance measure to focus on nonmotorized safety, bicyclists and pedestrians will remain firmly in the blindspot of traffic safety.

Please ask Congress to co-sponsor HR 3494/S 1708 to set a national goal to reduce the number of bicyclists and pedestrians injured and killed on our roads.

To take action
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Vehicular manslaughter charge worth more than money

Via Miller and Zois

2012: $1,000,000 Settlement. A mother is pushing her 14 month-old son in a stroller on the sidewalk and is struck and killed by truck that overshot its U-turn. The child is uninjured. Some witnesses say when the truck was coming at her she pushed her child to safety before her life was taken.

(It is worth nothing the family was more interested in whether a vehicular manslaughter criminal case would be brought than the money.)

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[B' Spokes: Cyclists are not the only ones interested in seeing vehicular manslaughter charges brought against outrageous driving behavior. It is often claimed that an injured cyclist has redress in civil court but my contention is that having an insurance company pay the damages is not justice nor is it much to curtail outrageous driving. Seriously, if you were reading the paper and saw that a insurance company paid a settlement you would maybe double check your coverage. Compare that to reading about someone doing jail time or lost their licence to drive, you would most likely drive more carefully.]
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Comparative Negligence Is Not Coming to Maryland Today

by Ronald V. Miller, Jr.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled today that Maryland is not going to make the leap to comparative negligence, choosing instead to defer to the legislature. The court has the power to change the law, it wants you to know. But it chooses not to.

I think contributory negligence is inane which is why some few states have kept it. Should the court defer to the legislature to make the call? I really don't know.

At some point, I'll write about this case because that's what you pay me for here. But I have already told you everything you need to know.

In the meantime, read the beginning of Judge Harrell's very Harrellarian dissent.

Paleontologists and geologists inform us that Earth's Cretaceous period (including in what is present day Maryland) ended approximately 65 million years ago with an asteroid striking Earth (the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction Event), wiping-out, in a relatively short period of geologic time, most plant and animal species, including dinosaurs. As to the last premise, they are wrong. A dinosaur roams yet the landscape of Maryland (and Virginia, Alabama, North Carolina and the District of Columbia), feeding on the claims of persons injured by the negligence of another, but who contributed proximately in some way to the occasion of his or her injuries, however slight their culpability. The name of that dinosaur is the doctrine of contributory negligence. With the force of a modern asteroid strike, this Court should render, in the present case, this dinosaur extinct. It chooses not to do so. Accordingly, I dissent.

My dissent does not take the form of a tit-for-tat trading of thrusts and parries with the Majority opinion. Rather, I write for a future majority of this Court, which, I have no doubt, will relegate the fossilized doctrine of contributory negligence to a judicial tar pit at some point.

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Seize the cars of motorists who injure bicyclists!

By George M. Simmons Jr.

Here’s the problem. Motor vehicle operators who cause injury (and death) receive only minor penalties. It’s a joke, is it not??? The legal system looks the other way, winks, excuses them, and probably gives them a gift card to a local automotive parts store, not to mention a “bicyclist down” sticker for for their bumper or fender.

Here’s what I think should be done: Motorists who injure cyclists should have their vehicle impounded, license suspended, and they should be required by law to ride a bicycle for ALL activities while the cyclist is recuperating from injuries — or face an equivalent amount of prison time.

This is in addition to the motorist (or their insurance company) having to pay for all medical expenses and providing income to pay for the cost of living expenses while the cyclist cannot work. If the offender were required to see the world through the eyes of a cyclist, then perhaps we could achieve an attitude adjustment in their behavior!

As things are, most aggressive motorists know there will be at most a minor inconvenience to deal with the issue. Who cares about the cyclist?

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