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Friday, February 24 2017 @ 10:38 AM UTC
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Contributory negligence - one persons story

Bike LawsB' Spokes: As you might know I try to collect various information about Maryland's contributory negligence doctrine and this is one disturbing report.
by Greg, a comment on The WashCycle

In Maryland, 70% of civil suits involving a pedestrian and a vehicle the pedestrian is at fault. Recently, as an example, my friend was hit by a truck on my block walking away from a tow truck with flashing sirens. In spite of Maryland's requirement that the driver yield right of way when approaching a vehicle using authorized flashing lights and slow to a prudent speed, he swerved around the truck and struck my friend resulting in medical bills and injuries.

My friend, because he was walking on *my property* but on the right hand side of the road as opposed to the left hand side of the road, was found to be contributory negligent and therefore not entitled to any relief.

Contributory negligence makes a lot of sense when you're talking about someone walking on ice with disregard for their own safety - however to infer that a pedestrian or cyclist needs to hold themselves to a higher standard of vigilance than someone driving a 2000+lbs vehicle is backwards and flies in the face of common sense. People holding hammers need to watch where they swing, I shouldn't need to walk around the edge of my property worrying about vehicles striking me down because I'm on the side of the road where my house is...

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Pre-Impact Fright: Why It Matters So Much

Bike Laws[B' Spokes: Part of the justification of low traffic fines is the injured victim can sue in civil court. I'm concerned about this approach for the following reasons:

1. Public education. Law suits and their outcome are rarely made public. So what we get is: kill a cyclists and get fined $400 and that's generally it. (<a href=""></a>; ) Will there be a law suit or will the family just say it will not bring back the dead?

2. Contributory Negligence. I've written about this before numerous times but basically another way to prevent cyclists from winning in court (but please consult a lawyer first as results can vary.):
<a href=";query=Contributory+negligence&amp;submit=Search&amp;type=all&amp;st=0&amp;keyType=phrase&amp;author=all&amp;results=50">;query=Contributory+negligence&amp;submit=Search&amp;type=all&amp;st=0&amp;keyType=phrase&amp;author=all&amp;results=50</a>;

3. And now I find out about this:]
by Ronald V. Miller, Jr., Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog

The issue of pre-impact fright is a big deal in wrongful death car accident cases in Maryland.

Why? Well, in non-malpractice cases we have a cap on wrongful death claims and a cap on survival actions. In Maryland - I know some states have it reversed - the survival action is the victim's loss: his medical bills and pain and suffering damages. It is the only claim in the victim's own right for the wrong done to them. Under this law, if you shoot a guy in the back of the head without him seeing you coming, there is no survival action. Like the cap itself, this is a dumb law. (Fill in here your own rant about how misguided the cap is. I've done it here many times before, but the subject is inexhaustible.)

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Allow cars to pass over the double yellow, please [video]

Bike LawsIn this video shows why I would support allowing motorist to pass cyclists over the double yellow (no passing zone.)
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Two Chances to Reform Contributory Negligence Doctrine in Maryland

Bike Lawsby Jim Titus, The Washcycle

Observers have been expecting the Court to revisit this question for the last few years, because the Court requested a special report to evaluate the two doctrines. That report, completed last year, did not make specific recommendations; but it provided alot of context that will help the Court regardless of its decision. During the 20th century, 46 states adopted comparative fault, 34 by statute and 12 by court decision, with Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, DC, and Maryland being the only holdouts.

As we have discussed on this blog many times, the doctrine of contributory negligence has alot of good points, but it is totally unfair to cyclists.

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Glen Echo pushes for Maryland's first stop sign camera

Bike Laws[B' Spokes: I am all for this! 1) We need a campaign that teaches that a significant safety issue is drivers rolling through stop signs (counter the idea that only cyclists roll through stop signs.) 2) If police can't get enough personnel out there enforcing public safety (and yes traffic enforcement is a public safety issue) then we should go with the automated enforcement.] Highlights:
Unlike speed and red light cameras, Maryland law does not allow stop sign cameras. Beers hopes to get the issue before the Maryland General Assembly in the upcoming session.

Alternatively, the county could begin allowing the town to keep the revenue earned from tickets given to drivers who roll through the stop sign, Beers suggested.

Since the town is too small to have its own police force, it hires off-duty county police officers to monitor the stop sign. But paying the police officers gets expensive, Beers said, and the extra revenue -- which the county keeps -- would help.

Stop sign cameras can keep people safe, Townsend said. Intersections controlled by stop signs account for more than 40 percent of all fatal crashes.

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A new type of anti-harassment law holds aggressive drivers accountable for their behavior

Bike LawsBy Bob Mionske

Although the roads belong to everybody, some motorists don’t see it that way. Maybe you’ve had a run-in with a driver who threw something at you or even tried to force you off the road. Such acts are illegal, but unless a police officer witnesses the crime, it’s very difficult to bring the motorist to justice.

That’s starting to change. Last year, the city of Los Angeles passed an anti-harassment law—the first of its kind in the nation—that empowers cyclists in new ways. Lawmakers elsewhere are starting to take notice: In February, Berkeley, California, passed its own version of the law. Last fall, cyclists in Washington, DC, fought for one as well, although it has not yet passed. Here’s how the new type of legislation evens the playing field—and why you should encourage your local or state representatives to enact a similar law.

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Bike Laws

A Close Look at Doug Morgan’s Columbus, Ohio Slam Dunk Victory

By Steven M. Magas, Ohio’s Bike Lawyer[1]

Early in 2010, my friend, and one of the smartest lawyers I know, Doug Morgan, defended a young cyclist in Franklin County Municipal Court.  The cyclist was cited for “taking the lane” on High Street – i.e. riding towards the center of the lane rather than hugging the white line. The officer cited him for a violation of Ohio’s “AFRAP” law, as adopted in the Columbus, Ohio, City Code.  Doug’s trial strategy should serve as a model for lawyers and cyclists alike in these cases.


Read more:
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Good and bad bills defeated in Maryland Legislature

Bike LawsBy Jim Titus, Washcycle

The 2012 legislative session did not substantially advance the interests of cycling in Maryland. Last year saw the passage of House Bill 363, which created a new crime of vehicular negligent homicide, after years of lobbying by cyclists, AAA, victims families, and the elected states attorneys. And 2010 was a banner year, with both the creation of the 3-foot passing law and repeal of the long-hated mandatory shoulder use rule.

This year, the General Assembly rejected Governor O’Malley’s proposal to end the sales tax exemption for gasoline, which means that many transportation projects are likely to proceed more slowly than planned—including those that help cycling. The Purple Line will be threatened unless the Legislature provides funding next year. The Legislature also declined to give police the power to stop a driver for talking on a cell phone. But the news was not all bad:

  • A Senate bill to repeal the negligent homicide statute was soundly rejected (S.B. 942);
  • The House Environmental Matters Committee gave an unfavorable report to a bill that would have allowed automobiles to cross the double yellow line to pass bikes (H.B. 1397); and
  • The House failed to act on a proposal to legalize cycling on all sidewalks statewide except for those in Gaithersburg and Baltimore (H.B. 946).

While each of these bills were poorly conceived, the sponsors had good intentions and it may be possible to accomplish their objectives without the problems their bills would have caused. Over the next few days, I’ll comment on the fate of those three bills and possible next steps.

(Jim Titus is affiliated with several Maryland cycling groups. The opinions expressed herein are Jim's alone, and do not reflect the views of any organization with which he is affiliated.)
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In Maryland, the 3-foot passing law confuses everybody

Bike Laws[B' Spokes: I will also note my ongoing efforts to correct the State's summaries of this law, some have been successful and some have not, such as this is still a good link:

To highlight bits of Jim's article for emphases:]

By Jim Titus, Washcycle

  • If the highway is too narrow for the driver to legally pass with the required clearance. This probably only applies to narrow highways, such as one-lane bridges and narrow roads where cars must slow and pull partly off the road to pass in opposite directions. But Bike Maryland believes that it also applies to no-passing zones (double yellow lines) on standard 2-lane roadways , because it thinks that the legislature inserted the word “highway” when it meant “lane”.  This assumption prompted Bike Maryland to sponsor HB 1397 which would have allowed cars to cross the double yellow line to pass bikes.  That way, our Baltimore allies reasoned, the exception to the 3-foot rule will no longer apply because it will be legal to pass with the required clearance.  Previous posts on this blog have discussed why many cyclists did not support that bill. MDOT also opposed the bill, albeit for different reasons. After the session, some of the advocates had an email colloquy with MDOT on whether the three-foot bill does or does not apply to the typical 2-lane road.    I asked MDOT for its position on that question, but so far, MDOT has not responded,

These four exceptions have been widely publicized, though few drivers probably undestand what they mean and no one knows what the final one means.


Between the ambiguous exceptions, and the exceptions to(the (bike lane and keep right) exceptions, Maryland has a law that is too confusing to explain to student drivers.  Fortunately, the Motor Vehicle Administration appears to be sticking to the simplest approach:  Drivers should pass cyclists with at least three feet.  This was always MVA's recommended best practice, and the fact that a court can not convict a driver for passing with less clearance in some situations does not change the clearance with which a reasonable driver will pass.

(Jim Titus is on the board of directors of WABA from Prince Georges County, The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of WABA.)

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Summary of legislative actions

Bike LawsHOUSE BILL 1278
Requiring each public institution of higher education, when it revises its facility master plan, to address bicycle and pedestrian circulation on and around the institution's campus; and requiring the institution to include in the facility master plan measures to incorporate bikeways and pedestrian facilities and to promote biking and walking on the campus.
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House Action Returned Passed (95-28)
Senate Action Passed (47-0)
Establishing the Baltimore City Community Enhancement Transit-Oriented Development Fund as a special, nonlapsing fund for specified purposes; providing for the contents and uses of the fund; providing that a portion of revenues from projects and other money shall be paid into the Fund under specified circumstances; requiring the Comptroller to pay specified money from the Fund to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City in a specified manner; adding the Fund to a specified list of exceptions; etc.
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House Action Passed (83-34)
Senate Action Passed with Amendments (40-6)
Altering a provision of law requiring vehicular traffic to stop and take specified actions when approaching a nonfunctioning traffic control signal at specified intersections to apply the requirement to all intersections; and requiring vehicular traffic approaching a nonfunctioning traffic control signal at an intersection to stop in a specified manner, yield to other vehicles or pedestrians in the intersection, and remain stopped until it is safe to enter and continue through the intersection.
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House Action Passed (133-0)
Senate Action Passed Passed (44-2)
4/10 Approved by the Governor
Requiring the Maryland Department of Transportation to use the maximum amount of specified federal funds available for highway or capital transit construction training program and supportive services, including skill improvement programs; requiring the Department to administer specified highway construction and supportive services programs in collaboration with the Governor's Workforce Investment Board for a specified purpose; etc.
* [B' Spokes: To bad we can't get something like this for bikeway funding (ya we still have a lot sitting there unused.) ]
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House Action Passed (125-10)
Senate Action Passed Passed (46-0)
Authorizing an insurer to exclude a moped and motor scooter from insurance benefits; requiring a moped or motor scooter in the State to be titled by the Motor Vehicle Administration; requiring an owner or prospective owner of a moped or motor scooter to obtain or maintain security; requiring an excise tax for a certificate of title for a specified moped or motor scooter; prohibiting an individual from operating or riding on a moped or motor scooter unless the individual is wearing specified headgear and eye protection; etc.
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House Action Passed (97-33)
Senate Action Passed Passed (33-13)

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