As Maryland Recovers from COVID-19
Construction Lane Closures Suspended; Motorists Advised to Stay on US 50 to and from Eastern Shore; Be Mindful of COVID-19 Precautions
As more Marylanders venture out and choose road trips for family vacations, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) is expecting high traffic volume across the state during the Fourth of July holiday weekend. MDOT SHA is urging motorists to allow for added travel time, stay alert, move over for emergency and service vehicles, and also remember to wear a face covering and practice social distancing at all of your stops along the way as Maryland continues to recover from COVID-19.
“We are seeing increased traffic on our roadways, so it is important to remind ourselves to use caution, be alert for pedestrians and bicyclists, and obey speed limits to ensure we all safely arrive at our destinations,” said MDOT SHA Administrator Tim Smith. “In addition to travelling safely, continue to make those wise decisions by wearing facial coverings, practicing social distancing, washing hands frequently and avoiding large gatherings.”
MDOT SHA crews will suspend non-emergency lane and shoulder closures in high-volume regions across the state from Thursday, July 2, until Monday, July 6. MDOT SHA will also deploy its Coordinated Highways Accident Response Team, or CHART, units at key locations to assist motorists and keep lanes open.
With CHART crews working within inches of moving vehicles traveling at highway speeds, drivers are urged to follow the Move Over law to decrease roadside injuries and fatalities. The law requires motorists to move over a lane when approaching emergency, law enforcement, tow truck, and transportation vehicles when they are stopped, standing, or parked on a highway with their red, amber, or yellow lights flashing. If a driver is unable to safely move over a lane when approaching these vehicles, they must slow down to a reasonable speed that is safe for existing weather, road, and vehicular or pedestrian traffic conditions.
Motorists are encouraged to “Leave Early and Stay Late” when traveling to the Eastern Shore and travel off-peak to reduce congestion. When returning from the Eastern Shore, MDOT SHA urges drivers to stay on US 50 (Ocean Gateway), which is designed for large traffic volumes, even if mobile traffic apps are advising other routes. Exiting onto local roadways will create significant congestion and could delay emergency response.
MDOT SHA also advises that a quick inspection can help reduce the likelihood of a disabled vehicle and help keep lanes incident-free. Hot weather can take a toll on older vehicles. Inspect tires for proper traction and pressure, look for any vehicle damage, check belts and hoses for excess wear and replace hoses if you find a leak.
Over the last few months with people staying at home and unable to go the gym, more Marylanders have taken to biking and walking for exercise and alternative travel. Drivers should expect additional pedestrian and bicycle traffic around Fourth of July events. Stay alert and stop for pedestrians and pass bicyclists with at least 3 feet of space. Motorists are also urged to be aware of animals crossing roads. Fireworks can spook wildlife and domestic pets.
If you plan to drive over the Fourth of July holiday, MDOT SHA offers the following advice:
- Buckle up. Make sure all passengers, including those in the back seat, are buckled up.
- Slow down. Observe all posted speed limits.
- Don’t drive impaired. If needed, designate a sober driver or use a taxi or ride service.
- Park the Phone. It’s illegal to text and use hand-held cell phones while driving in Maryland.
- Pay attention. Avoid distractions.
- Move over. Motorists are required by law to move over when approaching an emergency, service or utility vehicle or tow truck with red, yellow or amber flashing lights. If you can’t move over, slow down.
- Be patient. Travel during off peak hours and allow extra time for unexpected delays.
- Don’t pull over on the highway to watch fireworks. This puts you and other motorists at risk.
- Be prepared. In an emergency, those with cell phones can dial #77 to reach State Police. If your vehicle becomes disabled, pull off the highway as far as you can and call for help.
For real-time travel conditions, visit md511.maryland.gov. Have a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday weekend.