The curve where the Beltway merges with I-270 is famously known for accidents. Between March 1, 2020 and September 1, 2020 there have been 36 accidents in the stretch of the outer loop, specifically at the big curve where I-270 and the beltway merge. In 28 of those 36 commercial vehicle accidents the drivers were charged with at least one traffic violation.
Types of Accidents
The accidents that happen at this junction are primarily trucking accidents that can be catastrophic for anyone involved and bring the road to a standstill. Types of accidents that police have reported include jack-knifed tractor-trailers, roll-overs and trailers that have broken loose. A few of these crashes have involved cars that have hit these trucks navigating the curve, or a car that was traveling in the blind spot of a tractor trailer when changing lanes and merging.
Maryland State Police know this “big curve” frequently has accidents as a result of traffic infractions and regularly patrol the area. Maryland State Police has reported that they are sending more officers to patrol that stretch looking for drivers that are speeding or driving recklessly. Over 1,200 tickets have been written for this Beltway and I-270 area, and State Police have reportedly conducted 272 commercial vehicle inspections and have given out over $23,000 in fines to drivers. However, these efforts of ticketing drivers and enforcing good driving behavior are not working as well as they should.
Preventing These Crashes
While Maryland State Police are working hard to catch drivers who are speeding and ticketing those who are committing traffic violations, it is currently not enough. The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) in conjunction with Maryland State Highway Administration (MDSHA) are working to alert truck drivers to the upcoming curve. MDSHA has put up electronic signs to try and give these drivers early warnings to slow down and that a curve is approaching.
Despite there being 36 commercial vehicle accidents along the “big curve” there has not been a single fatality. While this should be good news it leaves MDOT and MDSHA nervous that if they cannot figure out how to stop the crashes at the curve there will soon be a fatality. No one has been able to figure out how to stop the crashes, it seems that no matter how much signage is used, collisions are still happening. The victims of these crashes have been incredibly lucky thus far, but the concern is that the first fatality could happen sooner rather than later if adequate prevention methods are not put into place.
When large trucks follow a curved path, they have centrifugal force pulling the truck to lean away from the curve which in turn can cause a truck to overturn and rollover. When a truck is driving too quickly the likelihood of a crash happening increases exponentially as speed plays a major role in these collisions. That is why MDOT and MDSHA are trying to caution drivers early to the upcoming curve so they have adequate time to slow down. In addition, distracted drivers and faulty equipment also plays a role in these crashes.
Highway officials believe that some truckers feel they can safely speed since there are fewer drivers on the road due to the pandemic. However, drivers should follow the mandated speed of 50 miles per hour when navigating this particular junction and curve, or even drive slower if the conditions are precarious. When trucks and other vehicles drive faster they risk losing control of their vehicle.
The single best thing a driver can do when driving on a curved road, or going around a curve is to take measures to drive slowly to decrease the likelihood of a rollover. Drivers should also turn as little as possible, and while that sounds redundant, turning too much around a curve could cause an accident with another vehicle or cause a rollover accident. Trucks do not drive through curves as a normal car would, they are larger and have a much higher center of gravity making them more dangerous.
If drivers try to turn too much and too quickly that could disturb the vehicle equilibrium and cause an accident. Drivers should focus on following the laws of the road and paying attention to signage while operating their vehicle.