Maryland lawmakers want to streamline aggressive driving laws

WASHINGTON — Some Maryland lawmakers are trying to streamline Maryland law to make it easier for police to stop aggressive drivers.

“In the law, aggressive driving is the requirement of three concurrent, or in a short period of time, offenses,” said Frederick County Delegate Bill Folden, who is also a member of the Frederick Police Department and used to reconstruct and investigate car accidents that ended with the most tragic of outcomes.

By law, the officer has to see all three offenses mentioned by Folden.

“They’re difficult to always string together,” he said.

Folden hopes to narrow the list of offenses that make up aggressive driving, but make it easier to apply the law.

“The bill proposes two or more in a single and continuous act of driving,” Folden said.

The offenses that would apply to the act are pretty straightforward:

  • Failure to obey a steady traffic signal (like running a red light);
  • Driving on to the shoulder to pass on the right;
  • Following too closely, or “tailgating;”
  • Failure to yield the right of way;
  • Exceeding the posted speed limit by 20 mph or more.

“Those are aggressive acts,” Folden said. “We can all agree with that.”

Currently, anyone who gets a ticket for aggressive driving has to pay a $370 fine, in addition to receiving points on their license. If he wants, the driver can simply admit his guilt and send in a check to avoid showing up in court.

But if the bill passes, it would require aggressive drivers to appear in court and face a judge.

Testimony on the bill began with Sgt. John O’Brien, an accident reconstruction specialist with Montgomery County police, who explained why mandatory court appearances would be an important change.

O’Brien recalled a crash that occurred last May that involved seven vehicles and sent two individuals, a 2-year-old and a 10-month-old, to the hospital with serious injuries.

“The motorist that was at fault in this collision ran a red traffic single, sideswiped a vehicle, and then drove onto a designated bike lane and then sidewalk, before rear-ending several vehicles which had the two children inside,” O’Brien said.

Under the existing law, the motorist at fault was able to simply pay the aggressive driving citation.

“He was able to go online, or send a check in the mail as you would for your cellphone bill, and he never had to meet the parents whose family he nearly ruined because of his actions,” O’Brien said.

“The fines and points associated with aggressive driving citations are certainly a deterrent, but requiring an individual who has been charged with these aforementioned citations to respond to court adds a level of accountability to this process.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters and republished with permission. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

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