Bill would fill in nonsensical gap in state law An artful solution
Published January 24, 2008
One of the least pleasant surprises of 2007 came after a homemade trailer being towed across the Bay Bridge came unhitched, causing a seven-vehicle pileup that killed three people and closed the span for six hours.
Notice that we said "after." Bad accidents on the Bay Bridge - particularly when there is two-way traffic on a span - are not a surprise. Neither is careless behavior by motorists who don't pay enough attention to their vehicles.
The surprise came five months later, when the authorities failed to find anything that the driver of the homemade trailer rig could be charged with.
Maryland Transportation Authority Police found no evidence of a safety hitch-pin that could have secured the trailer, and the safety chains being used were too long. Yet an accident report concluded that "no current regulations exist that can be applied to the proper securement of a trailer by the public in a noncommercial manner."
This is a bewildering and hazardous omission from state law, under which commercial haulers are tightly regulated. We're pleased that in this legislative session two state senators from either side of the Bay Bridge - John Astle of Annapolis and E.J. Pipkin of the Eastern Shore - have drawn up a bill requiring that drivers securely lock their trailers into place. There would be a fine of up to $1,000 if a violation of the rule results in death or serious injury.
Perhaps the penalty ought to be higher, but the bill would at least correct an egregious oversight. The General Assembly should pass it.
STATE INTERVENTION in local disputes usually resolves little. But such intervention will neatly resolve a standoff over County Executive John Leopold's refusal to let an ArtWalk project - a montage of work by a local artist and children from the Clay Street community - go on the side of the Arundel Center.
Instead, after House Speaker Mike Busch of Annapolis raised the issue with representatives of Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration, the art will go across the street from the Arundel Center, on the wall of a state office building.
The new spot is on the side of the Attman Glazer building, which houses the local office of the state Department of Assessments and Taxation. That might bring a new and unforeseen meaning to George "Lassie" Belt's central painting of a man breaking his chains.
We still think the promise given to the Clay Street youths by County Executive Janet Owens' administration should have taken precedence over Mr. Leopold's aesthetic judgment that the montage was "too busy."
But the matter has been resolved painlessly, and Mr. Leopold won't have to worry about leaving the county unable to bar any group from posting art on the side of county buildings. To be sure such problems don't recur, he should make it clear that he has a policy against such displays - one that applies to all county buildings, all groups and all occasions. Perhaps this should be county law as well.
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We have a problem
At least your state is addrssing the issue... Look at what our (Virginia) State Crash Team said back in 2006 and guess what's been done?? NOTHING.. This report was issued before the accident on the Bay Bridge... "In Summary, this crash was caused when a homemade trailer detached from the pick up that towed it. It struck a Cadillac traveling in lthe opposing lanes of traffic, fatally injuring the driver. Trailers are a special class of vehicle and all are subject to some requirements regarding lights and chains. While the Code exempts some smaller trailers, those designed to carry over 3000 pounds are required to have brakes and to be inspected beyond the initial visual confirmations of a VIN plate. "HOWEVER, VIRGINIA STATE CODE IS SILENT AS TO ANY DESIGN OR CONSTRUCTION SPECIFICATIONS FOR THOSE VEHICLES OR FOR TOWING CHAINS AND HITCHES. The purpose of this TECHNICAL ALERT is to draw attention to the POTENTIAL dangers of unsafe trailers on roadways in the Commonwealth. In many cases, towed trailers may be in OBVIOUS violations of safety codes that relate to lighting, braking and inspection requirements. Wherever possible, LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS should be trained in ways to quickly and easily identify such vehicles. In other cases, a trailer may meet all legal requirements but still be hazardous when used in transportation. THE TEAM RECOMMENDS THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES, THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE POLICE AND OR MEMBERS OF THE VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY REVIEW THE CURRENT ADMINISTRATIVE CODE AND CONSIDER WAYS TO IMPROVE SAFETY WITH REGARD TO TRAILERS OPERATED ON VIRGINIA ROADS.
Looks like our Political Leaders just don't get it... I can form a UTILITY TRAILER HIT MAN COMPANY and go into Maryland... and make a trailer come unhiched and kill anybody I want and guess what?? nothing happens... Go to www.dangeroustrailers.org The problem is NO REGULATIONS EXIST FOR ANY TRAILERS UNDER 3,000 POUNDS Except for lights that don't work most of the time. The Companies are using 1969 Standards... Can I build a car using 1969 standards today??
The problem with this bill is that according to your stories it only applies to motorists who fail to properly secure their trailer, and also cause a serious injury or death. If they cause a serious injury or death, the maximum fine is only $1,000. If my irresponsibility were to cause a serious injury or death, the $1,000 fine would be the least of my worries. Why is there no fine included in the bill for motorists who are cited by police for failing to properly secure trailers during regular traffic stops? Why do we have to wait until there is a tradjedy before we can have a penalty? Is the utility trailer lobby that powerful in Maryland? This bill does not fill a "nonsensical gap." It is a completely ineffective and meaningless effort. It irritates me when such efforts are portrayed to the public through your paper as meaningful. Is this the best work that our delegates have to offer?