Accidents on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Hardly a day goes by in which Maryland residents do NOT hear about a serious accident on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Just recently, another crash closed the westbound lanes in the late afternoon, creating considerable challenges for the evening rush hour. According to an article published by Baltimore’s Herald-Mail, the Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) closed all westbound lanes as emergency crews arrived onsite to assist the injured. A total of four vehicles were involved in the bridge accident, which began with a head-on collision. Numerous victims were transported to local hospitals for treatment, though there were thankfully no fatalities.
The MDTA Police Collision Reconstruction Unit and other experts continue to investigate the recent Chesapeake Bay Bridge crash, as they do all incidents that affect bridge operations. Officials noted that the accident occurred when the bridge was in two-way operations, when one westbound lane was reversed to accommodate heavy traffic. However, in addition to this factor, there are numerous reasons Maryland’s most scenic bridge is extremely dangerous. It is critical to talk to an experienced Maryland car accident lawyer if you were injured in any type of motor vehicle collision, as liability, defenses, and compensation are crucial considerations.
Plus, you might be interested to know the reasons the Chesapeake Bay Bridge consistently earns a spot on the list of scariest bridges in the US.
Wind and Weather
The four-mile long bridge is one of the world’s longest over-water structures, stretching across the Chesapeake Bay where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. As such, the dual span is situated in a region that is susceptible to heavy storms, gales, and hurricane-force winds half the year; the other six months are characterized by more wind, ice, sleet, and snow. In fact, the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge has been closed multiple times due to extreme weather conditions:
- Hurricane Isabel’s high winds led officials to shut the bridge for the first time in September 2003.
- In 2011, Hurricane Irene brought sustained winds in excess of 55 miles per hour, prompting another closure.
- When Hurricane Sandy hit the region in October 2012, officials closed the bridge to all traffic for several days.
- A severe winter storm in March 2013 caused heavy ice and snow, but it was the wind that induced officials to shut down traffic on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
Because this stretch of US Route 50/301 must accommodate vessel traffic related to the two main shipping channels underneath it, the Bay Bridge rises 200 feet in the air at its highest point. The effects of wind and weather are amplified at this height. Plus, being a suspension bridge, engineers build some flexibility into the structure so that it can withstand heavy winds. The upshot of this design is that the span can sway, startling many motorists who do not expect this movement.
It is also noteworthy that the narrow roadways of Maryland’s Bay Bridge do not feature a hard shoulder or any emergency pull-off zones, even though the guardrails are abnormally low.
Heavy Local Traffic and Rush Hour
The Bay Bridge connects Maryland’s Eastern Shore to the western side of the state and Annapolis, which means it carries many commuters into Baltimore and Washington, DC. As such, morning and evening rush hour traffic can be extreme, increasing the potential for auto collisions.
Two Lane Operations: To deal with the heavy traffic around rush hour, the MDTA has implemented a unique strategy to streamline operations on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. First, you should note the basics of the structure:
- The original span of the bridge, constructed in 1952, provides two lanes for eastbound traffic.
- A structure was built parallel to the first span in 1973, encompassing three lanes for motorists traveling westbound.
When traffic heading eastbound from Annapolis and Baltimore reaches a certain volume, the MDTA reverses ONE of the three lanes. This two-way operations plan does not affect the original span, but it can create confusion for drivers who do not expect the disruption.
Chain Reactions and Multi-Vehicle Pileups
From the above factors, you can probably guess that accidents involving multiple vehicles are more likely on Maryland’s Bay Bridge. The narrow lanes and lack of a shoulder leave drivers with no “out” to avoid a collision when the vehicle ahead of them comes to a stop. When rush hour traffic is bumper-to-bumper, a chain reaction accident could drag numerous vehicles into the fray.
You should also keep in mind that the design of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge has an unintended, very concerning impact on pileups as well. When multiple vehicles are crushed and disabled, emergency crews face significant challenges in getting to the scene. There could be disastrous delays as first responders try to get to victims needing medical care.
Commercial Motor Vehicle Routes: Its location near busy ports and shipping routes means there is a considerable amount of traffic from semis, 18-wheelers, tractor-trailer configurations, and other large trucks transiting over the bridge. Collisions are common when these massive vehicles are navigating in narrow lanes, around other vehicles, and potentially in high winds.
You may not be surprised to learn that many drivers experience gripping fear and anxiety that can leave them incapacitated – at least for purposes of safely operating a vehicle. Motorists have reported panic attacks while driving, along with tunnel vision, shaking, and acute distress. While some take advantage of bridge crossing services, some do not realize their fear until they are already in transit.
Get Help from a Skilled Maryland Car Accident Attorney
This description about the dangers of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Bridge may be interesting, but it is essential to retain an experienced legal team if you were hurt or lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident. To learn more please contact the Baltimore office of Attorney Bob Katz to set up a no-cost case evaluation with a member of our team. Our car accident lawyers can advise you on your rights and the legal process once we review the details of your case.