According to a study by the American Automobile Association's Foundation for Traffic Safety, incidents of aggressive driving in this country have increased 7 percent every year since 1990. Since 1987 the number of miles driven also has increased 35 percent, while the number of roadways in this country has increased only one percent. Traffic experts believe that tougher enforcement of existing laws will be the key to defusing what has become an increasingly dangerous situation on our roads.
Therefore, in 1998 the Maryland General Assembly approved a new law to provide for posting of cameras at intersections to catch red-light runners. By the end of this year, the number of red-light cameras in Maryland is expected to grow from 75 to 200.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's statistics show that running red lights is a major cause of urban crashes. An institute study found that red-light running accounts for 260,000 crashes, 121,000 injuries and more than 800 deaths a year. In Maryland, red-light running causes 4,500 injuries and 24 deaths annually.
The institute's figures also show that cameras are effective in reducing such violations. In Fairfax County, for example, red-light violations dropped 40 percent when cameras were installed. In Howard County, police found that the number of red lights run at four intersections showed a a 57 percent decline five months after cameras were introduced in 1998.
In 1998 Maryland supplemented its battle to tame the aggressive driver with video imaging, which enables state police parked on the Beltway to use cameras to document speeding, improper lane changes and tailgating. Violators then are mailed warning letters.
During this year's General Assembly session, Maryland legislators also approved an increase from one to two in the number of points a driver is assessed following conviction of failure to stop for a red light. Under current law, a driver is assessed three points when failure to stop for a red light contributes to an accident. However, the assembly rejected a measure that would have established "aggressive driving" as a felony.
Through aggressive enforcement, Maryland has been able to reduce the incidences of arrest for drunk driving. Its legislators are taking the same approach to aggressive driving.
-- Martin G. Madden
a Republican, represents Howard and Prince George's counties in the Maryland Senate, where he is minority leader.