SHA Prepares for Heavy Traffic
Long-term weather predictions are unreliable but one thing travelers can count on – plenty of company on Maryland’s roads during the Thanksgiving holiday. The day before Thanksgiving is generally considered one of the busiest travel days of the year, but the Sunday after Thanksgiving is actually more congested as most travelers head home.
Start planning early for a more enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday. Whether traveling by car, boat, train or plane, plan ahead and know before you go. Add more predictability to your travels by calling 511 or visiting www.MD511.org. Make smart decisions by learning about major incidents, delays, estimated travel times and weather conditions before getting behind the wheel. These decisions can save time, fuel costs and the frustration that can trigger aggressive and unsafe driving.
The State Highway Administration (SHA) is preparing to help make travel more safe and less stressful for motorists by suspending all non-emergency roadwork on SHA-maintained roadways between Wednesday, November 27 at 9 a.m. and Monday morning, December 2 at 9 a.m. Additionally, SHA will deploy extra emergency traffic patrols along metropolitan interstates in search of stranded motorists to help them on their way and prevent delay for other travelers.
“Our commitment to safety on Maryland’s roads is unwavering and at no time is it more important to plan ahead to reach your destination safely than during the holiday season,” said SHA Administrator Melinda B. Peters. “The SHA family recently lost one of our valued employees who, while working on the shoulder of I-695, was struck by a vehicle and killed. When you see emergency vehicles on the shoulder, please remember to slow down and move over if possible. Put 100 percent of your focus on driving because we want each and every person traveling to make it home safely.”
SHA’s CHART (Coordinated Highways Action Response Team) operators will closely monitor and disseminate critical highway information to motorists and first responders. Citizens can view hundreds of live traffic cameras as well by logging onto the CHART website at www.roads.maryland.gov and clicking on CHART or www.MD511.org. These operators, located at the Statewide Operations Center (SOC) and several regional Traffic Operations Centers (TOCs), monitor traffic 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Maryland has several new laws that residents and visitors on the roads will need to heed.
Every person, no matter age or where seated, in each vehicle must wear a seat belt and children must be in safety seats. Additionally, drivers cannot use a hand-held mobile device to talk or text while driving.
Each year, an average of 500 people dies in traffic crashes in Maryland. More than 90 percent of collisions are preventable, so keep the holidays a time for celebration with these helpful tips:
- Drive focused – Maryland law prohibits hand-held cell phone use and texting while driving. The new law makes hand held mobile phone use a primary offense.
- Buckle up! Seat belts are your number one defense in a crash. Maryland law now requires that everyone in all seating positions – including the back seat – wear seat belts.
- Move over to an adjacent travel lane away from emergency personnel – Maryland law requires it. The best practice is to move over and slow down for road crews and disabled motorists as well.
- Travel during off peak hours and allow extra time for unexpected delays. Take a map or GPS device should you need to detour around an incident.
- Check your vehicle’s lights, tires, battery and windshield wipers for proper operation. Make sure fluid levels are good.
- Slow down and pay attention, avoiding distractions such as cell-phone use, changing CDs and eating. Observe all posted speed limits.
- Never drink and drive! Designate a sober driver.
- Travelers with cellular phones can dial #77 or 911 to report suspected aggressive or drunk drivers or disabled vehicles.
- In the unfortunate case that you are involved in a minor crash, please safely move your vehicle from the travel lanes – it is Maryland’s law.
- The National Click it or Ticket campaign will be underway; police will enforce seat belt laws.
- Place children in the proper child safety seats.
- See and be seen. Maryland State Law requires the use of headlights while windshield wipers are in use.
- Wet road surfaces are not ideal and require particularly attentive driving.
- Slow down, increase your distance between the vehicles in front of you, avoid distractions and drive defensively.
- In the event that there is a dark traffic signal without power, each driver must come to a complete stop at the intersection before proceeding, also required by law.