Senate Bill 465 addresses motor vehicle accidents that occur with pedestrians or non-motorized vehicles. In civil actions, this measure would implement a standard of comparative negligence allowing pedestrians or bicycle riders more opportunity to pursue recovery for damages in claims of negligence following collisions with motorists.
A U.S. Department of Transportation report showed there were 5,987 pedestrian fatalities from collisions with motor vehicles in 2016. Data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety illustrates how accidents involving pedestrians are increasing in both volume and in severity with fatalities rising by roughly 29% since 2010.
Prevalence of These Accidents in Maryland
How widespread is this problem across the state? Data from the Highway Safety Office of the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) for 2016 and 2017 are as follows:
Maryland 2017 
Details of the Bill
This bill allows the plaintiff to pursue recovery in accidents where the injured may have demonstrated some negligence in the accident. The amount of negligence attributed to the plaintiff must be less than the negligence of the defendant(s). When the plaintiff is determined to have contributed to the accident, any award for damages that they receive would be reduced proportionally by the percentage attributed to them.
The concept of contributory negligence involves allocating fault among the parties in an accident that leads to an injury, fatality or property damage. Maryland is currently among several states where if the plaintiff is found to have contributed to the accident by exhibiting any degree of negligence than the entire claim is barred. This applies regardless of how little fault is attributed to the plaintiff.
Impact on State & Municipalities
Traditionally, governmental entities are shielded from civil lawsuits by the doctrine of governmental immunity. The concept dates back to common law where representatives of the state were afforded sovereign immunity from tort actions. Exceptions may apply when it is determined the damages were the result of actions performed intentionally or maliciously. From the perspective of the state and county governments, Bill 465 is an example of a law that may increase litigation actions and therefore cause them to incur greater costs, such as in staffing for the court venues.
Maryland’s “Look Up Look Out” Campaign
MDOT’s recent “Look Up, Look Out” initiative specifically promotes pedestrian roadway safety. It has increased awareness among both drivers and pedestrians regarding the importance of being alert and adhering to traffic signs, signals, and markings. Significant emphasis is placed on crosswalk design, reducing vehicle speed in these areas and the importance of pedestrian visibility.
MDOT’s Best Practices
- Remain on sidewalks when available
- Use crosswalks for crossing roads when possible
- Be aware of vehicles potentially exiting driveways or alleyways
- Wear brighter clothing to be more visible to motorists
- Do not wear headphones or use mobile devices when close to roadways
- Yield to pedestrians
- Travel according to speed limits and reduce speed in pedestrian zones
- Do not use mobile devices while driving and avoid distractions
- Be aware of the posted signs, signals and markings present in crosswalk areas
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