Negligence comes in many forms. Individuals who operate their vehicles in a thoughtless or aggressive manner can cause traffic accidents that result in personal injury. Similarly, the state government and local municipalities have a responsibility to the public’s general welfare, which should include proper maintenance of public roadways, pedestrian sidewalks and other public works-related projects.
Unfortunately, due to ever increasing budget cuts and other belt tightening measures, predictions are cropping up regarding the impact of poor roadway maintenance and its future effect on car, SUV and motorcycle crashes and other road accidents. When safety is compromised, unnecessary property damage and injury can be a result. Wrongful death can also be a result of individual or corporate negligence.
As Maryland personal injury lawyers, we travel the same city streets and rural roads that everyone does. Single-vehicle accidents can be caused by damaged pavement or deteriorating roadway and traffic control infrastructure. Sadly, it appears that the current economic downturn will cause more vehicle damage and could even result in some unnecessary fatalities.
According to a recent report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, Maryland motorists already pay an added $425 in vehicle costs because of rough roads — this is more than 25 percent higher than the national average of $335. The report looks at how states applied federal funds for maintenance of their aging highways and bridges. While Maryland has a history of major road construction, the report makes a point to praise the state for targeting funds at repair of infrastructure ahead of funding new construction.
Reportedly, Maryland drivers have certainly felt the impact of poorly maintained roads. According to the report, in 2008 the state ranked 37th (in percentage of road quality) with 41 percent of roads in “less than good” condition. Compare that to the national average of 45 percent. What probably won’t come as a surprise to many drivers, Baltimore had the 15th-highest additional repair and vehicle accident costs due to poor roads — $589 per year.
One bright spot, if you can call it that was the finding that — as of December 2009 — only seven percent of Maryland’s bridges were categorized as “structurally deficient,” defined as having a major defect in either the supporting structure or a crack in the roadway. While anything short of 100-percent safe should be of concern, compared to the national average of 12 percent, Maryland is doing better than most states.
Based on the article, Maryland transportation officials have adjusted projects already under way to preserve money to fix existing roads. In one instance, the Maryland Transportation Authority apparently scaled back construction of express toll lanes for an Interstate 95-Beltway interchange in the White Marsh area amid declining toll revenue and the need to repair bridges over the Susquehanna River and parts of Interstate 895 north of the Harbor Tunnel.
Marylanders pay more in vehicle operating costs, due to rough roads, according to report, BaltimoreSun.com, April 28, 2010