511 Brings Travel Information Direct to You With Text and E-mail Messages; SHA Prepares for Holiday Travel and Suspends Lane Closures for Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend
(November 15, 2012) – If you’re not stuffing a turkey this Thanksgiving, then it’s likely that you’re stuffing a suitcase and heading out on the road for what is commonly known as the most heavily traveled holiday. The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) offers its recipe for a smooth Thanksgiving road trip, and it starts with 511. Know before you go and add more predictability to your travels by calling 511 or visiting md511.org. New this year is travel information that comes directly to you – no website to visit, no call to make. Maryland 511 Direct offers drivers the ability to register online for email and text message traffic alerts customized to daily commutes or long distance trips. By learning about major incidents, delays, estimated travel times and weather conditions before getting behind the wheel, drivers can save time, fuel costs and the frustration that often breeds aggressive and unsafe driving.
While Maryland 511 Direct is a new tool for travelers this year, SHA is also is continuing traditional measures to help make travel safer and less stressful for motorists. To further ease congestion, the agency will also suspend all non-emergency roadwork on SHA-maintained roadways between Wednesday, November 21 at 9 a.m. and Monday morning, November 26. Emergency response units will patrol metropolitan interstates in search of stranded motorists to help them on their way and prevent delay for other motorists.
“Our focus at the Maryland State Highway Administration is to keep travelers on the go and help guide them to their destinations safely - everyday,” said SHA Administrator Melinda B. Peters. “With the crowds that are sure to be on Maryland roadways prior to and during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, planning ahead is essential. Take advantage of the 511 service, but please do so safely. Handheld mobile phone use and texting are unsafe and illegal in Maryland.”
SHA’s CHART (Coordinated Highways Action Response Team) program closely coordinates and shares information with motorists around the clock and assists tens of thousands of motorists each year. Operators located at the Statewide Operations Center (SOC) and several regional Traffic Operations Centers (TOCs) monitor traffic 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The SOC is located near the Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International (BWI) Airport and manages all CHART functions. Information, gathered from several sources within Maryland including the State Police, SHA and travelers using #77, is disseminated to travelers, media and other agencies.
More than 90 percent of all fatal traffic crashes are preventable, so be sure to keep the holidays a time for celebration with these helpful tips:
• Drive focused – Maryland law prohibits hand-held cell phone use and texting while driving.
• Buckle up! It’s the law in Maryland and your number one defense in a crash.
• Move over to an adjacent travel lane away from emergency personnel - a new Maryland law requires it.
• Travel during off peak hours and allow extra time for unexpected delays.
• Check your vehicle’s lights, tires, battery and windshield wipers for proper operation.
• Slow down and pay attention, avoiding distractions such as cell-phone use, changing CDs and eating. Observe all posted speed limits.
• Never drink and drive! Designate a sober driver.
• Drivers with cellular phones can dial #77 or 911 to report suspected aggressive or drunk drivers.
• In the unfortunate case that you are involved in a minor crash, please safely move your vehicle from the travel lanes – it’s Maryland’s law.
• The National Click it or Ticket campaign will be underway; police will be enforcing seat belt laws.
• Place children in the proper child safety seat.
In inclement weather –
• See and be seen. Maryland State Law requires the use of headlights while windshield wipers are in use.
• Wet road surfaces are not ideal and require particularly attentive driving.
• Slow down, increase your distance between the vehicle in front of you, avoid distractions and drive defensively.
• New Law – In the event that there is a dark traffic signal without power, each driver must come to a complete stop at the intersection before proceeding.