(May 23, 2023) – As Memorial Day weekend approaches, the Maryland Department of Transportation is emphasizing the importance of safety and caution on the roads. With the holiday weekend marking the official start of summer and a significant increase in travel for vacations and family gatherings, it is crucial for residents and visitors alike to prioritize safety, courtesy, and patience during their journeys.
Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul J. Wiedefeld expressed the need for responsible driving, sufficient travel time, and respect for fellow travelers. By working together, he believes this Memorial Day can be truly memorable while ensuring everyone reaches their destinations safely.
According to AAA, an estimated 42.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more during the Memorial Day weekend, representing a 7% increase from the previous year. In Maryland, a substantial number of residents will be traveling by car, while tens of thousands will fly from Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, and approximately 5,000 individuals will depart for cruises from the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore.
As the summer driving season commences, the Motor Vehicle Administration Highway Safety Office reminds everyone of the most common causes of fatal crashes, including speeding/aggressive driving, impairment by alcohol and/or drugs, distraction, and failure to use seat restraints. In 2022 alone, more than 560 individuals lost their lives in road accidents in Maryland, with nearly half of all highway fatalities occurring between May and September. To ensure safe travels this weekend and throughout the summer, the following tips should be kept in mind:
- BE FOCUSED: Avoid distractions while driving, such as cellphones, eating, or adjusting the radio. Designate a passenger to handle any potential distractions.
- SLOW DOWN: Allow ample time for your journey and be patient. This will enable you to react appropriately to any situations on the road.
- BE SOBER: It is illegal to drive under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both. If you plan to drink, ensure you have a designated sober ride home.
- BUCKLE UP: Maryland law requires all drivers and passengers to wear seat belts at all times. Failing to comply can result in an $83 ticket for each offense. Wearing seat belts significantly reduces the risk of fatalities in accidents.
- MOVE OVER: Adhere to Maryland’s Move Over law, which requires drivers to move over one lane for stopped vehicles displaying caution signals or warning lights. If changing lanes is not possible due to traffic, reduce your speed.
- BE PREPARED: Before embarking on a road trip, make sure your vehicle is in good condition. In case of a breakdown or emergency, attempt to move the vehicle off the roadway. If that’s not possible, remain inside the vehicle and call #77 for assistance.
Additionally, the State Highway Administration will suspend major lane closures for non-emergency roadwork from 3 p.m. on Friday, May 26, through 9 a.m. on Tuesday, May 30. The agency will deploy additional patrols of its Coordinated Highways Action Response Team (CHART) to assist with disabled vehicles and incidents.
For travelers crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, it is expected that more than 325,000 vehicles will pass through between Friday, May 26, and Monday, May 29. Heavy eastbound traffic volumes are anticipated on Thursday through Saturday, while heavy westbound traffic is expected on Sunday and Monday. To ensure smoother travels, the best times to cross the Bay Bridge include specific timeframes on each day leading up to Memorial Day Monday.
Motorists are advised to stay on US 50 on both sides of the bridge to keep local roadways open for emergency responders and residents. The Bay Bridge has implemented the Automated Lane Closure System, which utilizes overhead lane-use control signals, dynamic message signs, swing gates, and pavement markers to guide motorists when lanes are opening or closing. It is crucial for drivers to pay attention to these signals and follow them accordingly.
Tolls for the Bay Bridge are collected electronically through E-ZPass, Pay-By-Plate, and Video Tolling. E-ZPass is the most cost-effective option, offering savings of up to 77% compared to Video Tolls. It also eliminates the need for additional paperwork. Travelers can enroll in E-ZPass or sign up for Pay-By-Plate at https://www.driveezmd.com/acct-types. For real-time traffic updates and information, motorists can call 1-877-BAYSPAN (1-877-229-7726) or visit baybridge.com.
At BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, a busy summer travel season is anticipated. AAA projects that nearly 3.4 million travelers will fly during the Memorial Day weekend, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Passenger traffic at BWI has already increased, with a 21% rise in 2022 compared to the previous year. Travelers are advised to allocate sufficient time for airline check-in and security procedures. If using parking shuttles, additional time should be factored in for transportation to the terminal.
On Memorial Day, May 29, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) will operate on a modified schedule. CityLink and LocalLink buses, Light RailLink, and Metro SubwayLink will adhere to the Sunday/Holiday schedule. Commuter Bus will operate Bus Route 201 on the Weekend/Holiday schedule, while MARC Train services will not be available. MobilityLink subscription rides will be temporarily suspended over the Memorial Day weekend, and customers should reschedule their rides by contacting the MobilityLink Call Center at 410-764-8181.
For the latest information on MTA service, customers can visit the website at mta.maryland.gov or call the Transit Information Contact Center at 410-539-5000. Email notifications about service modifications and delays can be subscribed to at mta.maryland.gov/enotifications.
As Marylanders and visitors embark on their Memorial Day weekend journeys, it is crucial to prioritize safety, exercise caution, and adhere to traffic regulations. By focusing on responsible driving, staying alert, and using seat belts, travelers can help ensure a safe and memorable holiday for themselves and others on the road. Remember, it only takes a moment to buckle up and make a significant difference in the event of an accident. Let us make this Memorial Day a time of celebration and remembrance, without the tragedy of preventable accidents.