Articles Posted in Bus Accident

University of Utah psychologists are saying that texting while driving increases a motorist’s crash risk by six times. The study can be found in the latest edition of Human Factors, a journal.

According to the researchers, texting presents a 50% greater car crash risk than talking does. One reason for this is that reading or writing texts takes a driver’s attention completely off the road. Meantime, talking on the cell phone while driving at the same time divides the motorist’s attention between both tasks. However, this is not to say that it is safe to talk on the phone while operating an auto.

The study’s lead psychologist, Frank Drews, says that he and other researchers asked 20 motorists, ages 19 to 23, to drive in a “high fidelity driving simulator.” All of the participant drivers were seasoned texters.

The researchers say that compared to drivers who did not text or talk on the cell phone, motorists’ median reaction time went up 30% while they texted. Drivers’ median reaction time rose by 9% when talking on a cell phone. The study also reports that it is more distracting to read text messages than it is to compose them.

Distracted Driving Accidents

This past year, federal and state transportation safety officials have stepped up their efforts to make sure motorists are aware of how dangerous it is to text while driving. In September, Maryland’s statewide ban on sending texts while driving went into effect. Also that month, federal transportation officials kicked off a two-day distracted driving summit in Washington DC. This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched it’s distracted driving Web site, and President Obama’s executive order banning all federal workers from texting when driving goes into effect today.

Unfortunately, distracted driving continues to be a leading cause of Maryland car crashes. Like drunk driving accidents, distracted driving crashes are preventable.

Research: Texting while driving leads to six-fold increase in accidents, TopNews, December 22, 2009
Texting While Driving Raises Crash Risk Sixfold, BusinessWeek, December 21, 2009
Related Web Resources:
Cell Phone Driving Laws, Governors Highway Safety Association

Human Factors and Ergonomics Society

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reportedly recommended as far back as 2002 that motorists not talk on cell phones while driving—unless in an emergency situation. The federal agency also recommended that drivers not use hands-held, as well as hands-free phones and even went so far as to note that establishing laws banning only handheld cell phones might not be enough to minimize the risks of using a phone while operating a motor vehicle.

The reason for this recommendation was that the NHTSA had in its possession hundreds of pages of research documenting the dangers associated with cell phone use while driving. Yet the recommendation and the research were never made available to the public. One reason for this was concern that Congress and other public officials would see the proposal as a form of lobbying.

The information finally became public after Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety, two public interest groups, managed to access the information via the Freedom of Information Act.

The question now being asked is how many lives could have been saved if people knew then what they know now about the risks involved with cell phone use while driving? When the NHTSA first made its proposal several years ago, there were more than 170 million people using cell phones in the country—now, there are more than 270 million cell phone subscribers. And now, more than ever, cell phone use while driving has become a bad driving habit that millions of motorist are finding hard to break.

Yet as more motor vehicle accidents are reported involving motorists that caused auto crashes because they were talking on a phone or text messaging, the consequences of cell phone use while driving can no longer be ignored. Even train operators have been found negligent for engaging in these bad habits and causing catastrophic train collisions.

While Maryland doesn’t have a ban on any kind of cell phone use for adult drivers—only for minor drivers—all drivers will be prohibited from text messaging beginning October 2009. The Maryland Highway Safety Foundation says it had been pushing for a hand-held cell phone ban, but with the latest revelations about the NHTSA’s suppressed findings, they may recommend a total ban on the use of all cell phones while driving.

U.S. Withheld Data on Driving Distractions, WBOC 16, July 22, 2009
Suppressed federal study having ripple effect in Md., Baltimore Sun, July 2009
The Truth About Cars and Cellphones, NY TImes, July 22, 2009
Related Web Resources:

Center for Auto Safety

Public Citizen


Maryland Highway Safety Foundation

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According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, about 83% of the 609,000 Marylanders traveling 50 miles or more over the Memorial Day weekend will travel by car—that’s 508,000 motor vehicle riders. A decrease in local gas price is one of the reasons cited for an increase in road travelers from last year. Air travel is also expected to increase this year by 7%. Another reason cited for this rediscovered travel bug is that a poor economy has forced hotels, cruises, airlines, and car rental companies to lower their prices.

With more people getting into their cars and heading toward vacation destinations and family reunions, the roads will likely be more crowded this weekend. Traffic and the excitement and rush to arrive at a specific location can create a less relaxed travel climate that can increase the chances that a motorist might become involved in a catastrophic Maryland car accident.

Here are a number of safe driving tips to help you navigate your way through the Memorial Day weekend:

• Make sure you have your maps organized and travel routes planned before leaving.
• Check the Internet, listen to the radio, or watch TV to see where there may be traffic backlogs that you can avoid.
• Make sure that your car is in proper working condition before you head out.
• Have a roadside emergency kit with you.
• Get plenty of rest before you drive.
• Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination.
• Take periodic breaks while driving so you don’t get lethargic or drowsy.
• Don’t speed.
• Obey traffic laws.
• Don’t talk on the cell phone or text message or read maps while driving.
• Drive defensively.
• Don’t drive drunk.

• Keep emergency numbers at your disposal.

More Marylanders to hit the road this weekend, Baltimore Sun, May 21, 2009
Related Web Resources:
AAA Mid-Atlantic
MD Roads

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The Maryland State Highway Administration says that of the 589 Maryland traffic deaths that occurred in 2008, 124 of those fatalities took place in Prince George’s County. That’s almost twice as many fatalities than in Baltimore County, ranked number two with the most traffic deaths at 52 fatalities. Montgomery County came next with 52 traffic deaths. Baltimore had 49 traffic fatalities, and Anne Arundel County recorded 48 traffic fatalities. Officials from Maryland, Prince George’s County, and municipal police have vowed to address the issue of traffic safety and determine why so many Maryland traffic deaths occur in this county so they can fix the problem.

The county also recently registered the largest amount of Maryland pedestrian deaths over the past decade. For example, of the 111 Maryland pedestrian deaths that occurred in 2007, a significant number of the fatalities occurred in Prince George’s County:

Prince George’s: 28 pedestrian fatalities
Baltimore: 17 pedestrian deaths
Baltimore County: 17 pedestrian fatalities
Montgomery: 15 pedestrian deaths
Anne Arundel: 8 pedestrian fatalities

There were 115 Maryland pedestrian deaths in 2008—and the fatalities keep coming in 2009. Just last month, in Prince George’s County, two young pedestrians, 19-year-old LaRenta Vondale McFarland and 7-year-old Richard Young, died after a Jeep hit them while they were crossing Central Avenue in Upper Marlboro.

According to Maryland Highway Administration spokesperson David Buck, driver error seems to be the leading cause of traffic deaths in Prince George’s County. Common types of driver error include:

• Driver fatigue
• Speeding
• Drunk driving
• Driving under the influence of drugs
• Failure to obey traffic rules
• Talking on cell phone
• Failure to use seat belts
• Text messaging

More 2008 Maryland Traffic Facts:

• About 100,000 Maryland motor vehicle crashes occur annually.
• 196 drivers died in Maryland auto accidents last year.

• 65 of these motorists were not using seat belts or were riding in cars that lacked airbags.

Too Deadly a Place to Drive, Washington Post, May 10, 2009

Maryland State Highway Administration

Related Web Resources:
Maryland Traffic Information, Federal Highway Administration

Prince George’s County, Maryland

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A number of school bus students were rushed to the hospital this week following two separate Maryland motor vehicle accidents involving school transportation vehicles on Wednesday. An elementary school bus and a pickup truck collided in St. Mary’s County when the bus turned in front of an oncoming pickup truck and was struck.

Three of the students who were on the bus were taken to a local hospital, while the pickup truck driver, a Lusby man, was taken to Prince George’s Shock Trauma. Police say the bus driver failed to yield the right of way.

In another Maryland school bus accident, one man died in Garrett County after his vehicle was involved in an auto crash with a school bus. For reasons that are still not clear, the Ford pickup truck of 63-year-old Robert Charles Biers crossed the center line to collide with the bus. All 23 passengers on the bus were taken to Garrett Memorial Hospital so they could be examined for possible injuries.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

• There have been 1,389 school transportation-related crashes between 1997 and 2007.
• 1,541 people died in those crashes, which averages to about 140 school transportation-related deaths each year.
• 73% of the people who died were riding in the other vehicles.
• 7% of the those who died were riding in the school transportation vehicles.
• 20% of the people who died were pedalcyclists, pedestrians, and others who weren’t riding in any vehicles when the deadly motor vehicle crashes happened.

• 152 pedestrians younger than age 19 have died in school transportation-related collisions.

School buses are common carrier vehicles which means that the bus driver owes its occupants and other motorists an even greater duty of care than do regular drivers. Many school buses still lack safety belts, which means bus accidents can result in serious injuries—especially for young occupants.

School Bus Accident In St. Mary’s,, March 25, 2009
Collision with Bus Kills Driver,, March 25, 2009
School Transportation-Related Crashes, NHTSA

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This week, the Maryland Senate approved by a 43 to 4 vote a bill banning drivers from text messaging whenever they are operating their motor vehicles. If the bill becomes law, it would make reading, composing, sending, or receiving text messages a misdemeanor crime punishable by a $500 fine. Maryland would also join a growing list of states and jurisdictions, including Virginia and Washington DC, that are banning text messaging—whether on a cell phone, PDA, or IPod Touch or another device—while operating a motor vehicle.

Sending short messages via cell phone or other electronic devices is a bad habit that has grown more popular in recent years—especially among younger, more inexperienced drivers. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, one of its studies last year found that about 50% of young drivers, ages 18 – 24, text message while driving. The study found that among drivers ages 45 and older, less than 5% engaged in text messaging while operating a motor vehicle.

Text messaging is a type of distracted driving, and like all other forms of distracted driving, including talking on a handheld cellular phone, applying making, or reading the newspaper, can lead to deadly auto accidents. ABC News says that a 2006 study showed that 65% of near-motor vehicle collisions and 80% of auto crashes occur because of distracted driving.

For example, one Maryland child lost her right forearm in a catastrophic bus accident that occurred while the bus driver was texting on his cell phone. 30 people were injured in this Maryland motor vehicle accident. In another traffic accident, a 26-year-old woman died last year in a truck accident when she was struck by a tractor-trailer while the truck driver had been texting.

These kinds of catastrophic motor vehicle collisions could have been avoided if the drivers had not been engaged in distracted driving.

Md. Is Latest State to Target Text Messaging by Drivers, Washington Post, March 18, 2009
Texting While Driving Could Spell Trouble, ABC News, May 8, 2007
Driving and Dialing Bus Drivers May Case Accidents, ABC News, Feb 7, 2007
Related Web Resources:

Examination of Maryland Senate Bill 98 (PDF)

Cell Phone Driving Laws, Governors Highway Safety Association

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The winter time can be a deadly time for Washington DC and Maryland motorists if they aren’t careful. Poor visibility and icy roads can only make the outcome of an auto accident, caused by negligent or careless driving, worse. To help prevent fatal auto accidents from occurring in snowy weather and icy conditions, offers a list of 10 common driving mistakes that can prove fatal in the wintertime:

1) Not checking the weather before you get in the car.
2) Driving too fast under current weather conditions. This can cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle on slippery roads.
3) Following too closely behind the vehicle or snowplow equipment in front of you. Allow greater distance between you and the other motorist than you would when there isn’t snow on the road. Do not drive using cruise control when the conditions are wet.
4) Overcorrecting your car on ice.
5) Driving while you’re tired.
6) Driving when there’s poor visibility.
7) Failing to get the car winter ready. Also, make sure you have an extra key that is easily accessible in the event that you get locked out of your vehicle.
8) Driving on back roads.
9) Not carrying an emergency tool with you, such as jumper cables, a spare tire, water, dried food, a cell phone, and warm clothing.

1) Leaving your vehicle if your car stops, which could be the warmest place for you to be.

According to a University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health study:
• Poor weather is a factor in 1.5 million of the car accidents that occur every year, resulting in 800,000 injuries and 7,000 deaths.
• Almost 20% of highway deaths involved poor weather as a factor.

• Driving the day after the year’s first winter storm is the most dangerous day of the year to operate a motor vehicle.

The National Safety Council recommends a number of safety tips for winter driving, including:
• Tune your engine.
• Check your battery.
• Make sure the fluids in your car are at the correct levels.
• Make sure your car is equipped with the proper equipment, including tire chains, a snow scraper, and a snow shovel.

• Have first-aid supplies and a compass with you.

In Depth: 10 Deadly Mistakes Of Winter Driving,

Safe Winter Driving

Related Web Resources:
All-Weather Driving Tips, Road & Travel Magazine
Baltimore, Maryland Weather, Maryland Weather

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A woman who was injured in a Maryland school bus accident in 2006 is suing the Cecil County Board of Education, school bus company owner Daniel W. Wagner, Sr., and school bus driver Thelma Ann Delp for personal injury. On March 6, 2006, Rachel Marie Couch, then 18, was driving a 1991 For Bronco on Maryland Route 272 when she was struck by a school bus driven by Delp.

Couch says she suffered mental trauma and sustained serious, extremely painful, and permanent injuries to her body, including head injuries, neck injuries, back injuries, and limb injuries because of the accident. She had to be flown by state police chopper to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

There were no students on the bus, which was traveling to Rising Sun High School at the time of the auto crash. Maryland State Police say the bus had stopped at a red blinking light in one of the lanes on Route 272 when she made a left turn and broadsided Couch’s SUV. Couch says there are skid marks on the road that show she tried to avoid the bus. Delp says she didn’t see any cars on the road as she was making her turn.

Media reports indicate that the bus-SUV crash is not the first auto accident to occur at the intersection. Critics say one reason is that there has been some confusion surrounding a traffic light at Route 272 and Tiger Drive.

School Bus Accidents

School buses are common carriers whose drivers owe other motorists and pedestrians a greater duty of care to safety than other drivers. School bus passengers and others on the road can be prone to serious injuries during a traffic accident. Most large school buses do not come installed with seat belts, which makes its passengers more prone to serious injury. The size of large school buses make them a dangerous moving object in crashes with smaller vehicles, such as cars, SUV’s, and motorcycles, as well as pedestrians.

Woman here files $3M suit over crash, Lancaster Online, January 15, 2009
Related Web Resources:

School-Transportation Related Crashes, NHTSA (PDF)

Cecil County Board of Education

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The National Safety Council wants all US states to ban motorists from using cell phones while driving. NSC CEO and President Janet Froetscher noted that talking on the phone while driving increases a driver’s chances of becoming involved in an auto crash by four times more than if he or she were driving without using one.

Currently, six US states have laws banning the use of hand held cell phones while driving:

• District of Columbia
• Washington
• California
• Utah
• New Jersey
• Connecticut

Seven US States have a ban on text messaging while driving:

• District of Columbia
• Connecticut
• Alaska
• New Jersey
• Washington State
• Minnesota
• Louisiana

While some localities within US states that do not have statewide bans have imposed their own cell phone restrictions, including bans on hand-held phones and text messaging and bans affecting teen drivers and school bus drivers, the states of Kentucky, Florida, Nevada, Louisiana, Oregon, Mississippi, Utah, and Louisiana prohibit their localities from imposing any such bans.

The NSC is quick to point out that just because someone is using a hands-free phone does not mean that he or she is now operating the vehicle safely. According to a Harvard Center of Risk Analysis 2003 study, cell-phone use while driving is a contributing factor in 6% of auto accidents each year. Some 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries result from such collisions.

According to a Nationwide Insurance public opinion poll, 81% of US drivers use a cell phone when driving. Froetscher notes that cellular phone use while driving is more dangerous than talking to a passenger who is in the same vehicle. While talking to a real person makes the driver aware that lives are at stake if he or she doesn’t drive safely, talking on the cell phone places the motorist’s attention not on the road and in the present moment but elsewhere.

In addition to pushing for a change in current driving laws, the NSC is advocating more education about the dangers that come from driving with a cell phone, as well as better training.

National Safety Council Calls for Nationwide Ban on Cell Phone Use While Driving,, January 12, 2009
Safety council urges ban on cell phone use while driving,, January 12, 2009

Related Web Resources:

Maryland Cell Phone Law,
Washington D.C. Hands-Free Law, Driving
Cell Phone Driving Laws, Governors Highway Safety Association

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Gregory Schoenburn and Kimberly Pifer, the widower and daughter of Martha Schoenburn, one of two pedestrians killed in a bus accident on Valentine’s Day in 2007, have settled their wrongful death lawsuit against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for $2.3 million.

Martha, an executive assistant, died after she and colleague Sally Dean McGhee were run over by a bus while they crossed Pennsylvania Avenue NW at the 7th intersection on February 14, 2007. The bus driver, Victor Kolako, pleaded guilty to two counts of negligent homicide and is currently behind bars.

Martha’s family had initially sued the WMATA for $50 million. The wrongful death lawsuit filed by McGhee’s family for $20 million is scheduled for trial in October.

Several pedestrian accidents have occurred at the intersection where the two women were struck, and the city has now added a left-turn only lane.

Following the two fatalities, WMATA has agreed to train its 2,400 Metrobus drivers annually. It also set up a “street smart” program to make sure that its employees are knowledgeable about pedestrians on the road.

Public buses are common carriers that owe passengers and pedestrians a greater duty of care to drive safely. Failure to fulfill this care is considered negligence, and if someone is injured or killed because of driver carelessness or recklessness, you are entitled to financial recovery. Our Maryland and Washington DC bus accident lawyers can help you explore all your legal options.

We know how to investigate bus crash cases and determine not just driver negligence, but we can find out if there is more that a transportation agency or the city could have done to prevent the accident from happening. We know how to bring an injury claim against all liable parties and deal with the unique issues that can arise with bus accident claims and lawsuits.

WMATA Settles Wrongful Death Suit, Legaltimes, June 13, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Approaches to Enhancing Pedestrian Safety and Access, FHWA Safety

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