Whether you're heading to Ocean City's beaches, or a family barbecue, or to the hills to go camping, Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of the summer travel season.
The Maryland State Highway Administration is reminding all travelers of the rules of the road -- from buckling up to what to do if your vehicle breaks down or how to check traffic congestion on the Bay Bridge via your smartphone.
Key travel information is available through 511, Maryland’s travel advisory service. Before you load the family into the minivan, call 511 or visit md511.org to avoid costly delays.
“Since sitting in traffic only fuels aggravation and aggressive driving, we ask that travelers take advantage of Maryland’s free 511 travel service," said SHA Administrator Melinda B. Peters. "Of course, stay safe by driving attentively and sober, share the road, buckle up and remember Maryland law bans hand-held mobile phone use and texting while driving.”
If you’re heading to the beach this weekend, use 511 to choose your region, then prompt “Reach the Beach” for traffic incidents and travel times from east of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore. You can learn the travel time for the entire trip from the Bay Bridge to Ocean City, as well as from the Bay Bridge to other parts of the state.
Off to the lakes in Western Maryland instead? The 511 travel advisory system provides road conditions and travel times for interstates and major highways throughout the state, including I-70 and I-68 heading west.
The agency also updates a recorded line with information about the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at 1-877-BAYSPAN and on the web at www.Baybridge.com. Travelers can plan ahead and use EZPass to pay the toll to avoid delays.
Follow these tips for safe travels:
• If your vehicle breaks down, never try to cross an interstate in search of assistance. Instead, stay with your vehicle or move as far off the road as possible.
• Travelers with mobile phones can dial #77 to report disabled vehicles. Call #77 or 911 to report suspected aggressive or drunk drivers.
• 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.
• The National Click it or Ticket campaign will be under way; police will enforce seat belt laws.
• Move over from emergency vehicles along the road to an adjacent travel lane - Maryland law requires it. Best practice is to move over for work crews and disabled vehicles, as well.
• Travel during off-peak hours and allow extra time for unexpected delays. Be “Road Ready” – Click here for major construction projects.
• Take water, snacks and activities for kids.
• Pack an emergency road kit for possible vehicle problems.
• 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.
• If you are involved in a minor crash, move your vehicle from the travel lanes to exchange insurance information – it is Maryland’s law.
• Place children in the proper child safety seats.
• Watch for pedestrians and cyclists. If you are traveling to Ocean City, Walk Smart! Use marked crosswalks.
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 even more attentive driving.
• Slow down, increase your distance between the vehicles in front of you, avoid distractions and drive defensively.