Interstate 97 stretches just under eighteen miles between Annapolis and Baltimore. Exit 10B on the northbound side of the highway feeds onto Veterans Highway in Millersville. It is also the point where a driver entered the wrong side of the highway in January 2012, resulting in a head-on collision that killed four people. A second fatal wrong-way collision in the same area caused Maryland safety officials to consider whether the exit ramp poses a danger because it can be mistaken for an on-ramp. While they maintain that driver error caused both crashes, these cases demonstrate the role that road signs and highway markings can play in preventing accidents.
The first accident occurred in the early morning of January 28, 2012. A nineteen year-old driver turned off of Veterans Highway onto what she apparently thought was the ramp to the southbound lanes of I-97, but was actually the exit from the northbound lanes. She drove south for over nine miles before colliding head-first with a vehicle traveling north at about 3:30 a.m. She and the three occupants of the other vehicle died in the crash. Toxicology reports showed that both drivers were intoxicated. The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) concluded at the time that alcohol was the principal cause for the driver’s error.
At about 1:30 a.m. on June 13, 2012, a car traveling south in the northbound lanes of I-97 collided head-on with a car going north. The accident occurred about two miles south of Exit 10B, although investigators have not officially determined that the driver entered the highway there. Neither car had any passengers, and both drivers were killed in the crash. Toxicology reports indicated that the wrong-way driver had been drinking, and investigators believe it is possible that she got onto the northbound lanes of the highway via Exit 10B.
The SHA has said that both accidents were more likely to be the result of driver error than any design problem on the highway, saying that the fact that both wrong-way drivers may have entered the highway at the same location was a “tragic coincidence.” Exit 10B leads to a four-way traffic light at Veterans Highway. The exit reportedly has two “Do not enter” signs, one “Wrong way” sign, and a street light. Law enforcement officials said that they have not received any complaints about the design of the exit. Drivers quoted by Baltimore’s CBS-affiliate news station said that the exit has clear markings indicating that it is an exit ramp, not an on-ramp. After the June accident, the SHA added two additional “no turn” signs at the intersection with Veterans Highway.
It is possible, perhaps even likely, that both accidents resulted from alcohol impairment, and that other factors, including the exit ramp, are merely coincidence. Any duty that the state of Maryland and local governments have to maintain safe roads is balanced by drivers’ duty to operate their vehicles safely and obey traffic laws. Given the two accidents’ possible connection to the same exit ramp, however, state investigators had an obligation to examine the location to determine if it poses an unreasonable risk to traffic safety.
Lebowitz & Mzhen’s attorneys are skilled at pursuing justice for people in Maryland who have been injured or lost loved ones in automobile accidents. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Maryland Appeals Court Rules on Issue Preclusion and Contributory Negligence in Auto Accident Case, Maryland Accident Law Blog, July 12, 2012
If a Maryland Employees Gets Into A Distracted Driving Accident, When is the Employer Liable? Maryland Accident Law Blog, June 21, 2012
Maryland Driver Convicted for Car Accident that Severely Injured a Police Officer, Maryland Accident Law Blog, June 15, 2012
Photo credit: ‘I-97’ by Ltljltlj [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.