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New laws for motorists go into effect Monday

NANCY POWELL ¦ Staff Writer

(Sept. 28, 2012) Beginning Monday, Oct. 1, two new traffic safety laws go into effect.

One law requires a driver approaching a nonfunctioning traffic signal at an intersection to stop at a clearly marked stop line before entering any crosswalk or intersection. After stopping, the driver must yield to any vehicle or pedestrian in the intersection. The new law also requires a driver to remain stopped until it is safe to both enter and continue through the intersection.

Violations of this new law carry a fine of $90 and two points if the offense does not contribute to an accident. If the violation contributes to an accident, the fine is $130 and three points.

The Ocean City Police Department and AAA Mid-Atlantic want to remind motorists that if a traffic light is out, they must stop and yield before proceeding with caution.

“Given the recent severity of storms we have seen in our state, including hurricanes, thunderstorms, wind and ice storms and an occasional tornado, it is becoming more and more common to see intersections with nonfunctioning traffic signals and unfortunately we have seen this end in tragedy,” said Ragina C. Averella, manager of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Mid- Atlantic. “It is especially important that motorists understand and obey the law in these situations.”

AAA Mid-Atlantic and the Ocean City Police Department also want motorists to remember and to follow existing laws.

If two vehicles approach an intersection without a traffic control device or with a non-functioning traffic control signal from different roadways at the same time, there is an existing motor vehicle law that applies. In this situation, the driver on the left must yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on his or her immediate right.

There are also times when a traffic control signal that normally operates green, yellow, and red lights might be in “flashing” mode. This usually means red lights might be flashing in one direction and yellow lights are flashing in another direction. Flashing red and yellow lights on a traffic control signal do not mean the light is non-functioning.

In this situation, the drivers approaching the red flashing light must stop and can only proceed when the intersection is clear. Drivers approaching the yellow flashing light should slow and use caution, but are permitted to proceed through the intersection without stopping. Drivers are also reminded that if a police officer is directing traffic in the intersection, they should obey the directions of that officer, regardless of the signal indicated on the traffic control device.

The second traffic safety law taking effect Oct. 1 is the requirement that all children under the age of 8 is to be placed in a child safety seat regardless of weight unless the child is 4 feet 9 inches tall or taller. The current law says a child less than 8 years of age is exempt from riding in a child safety seat if the child weights more than 65 pounds. The new legislation removes the 65-pound exemption for booster seat use.

The change was made because most child passenger safety experts and pediatricians believe that height and bone density play a larger role regarding a correct seat belt fit than a child’s weight and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children continue to use belt-positioning booster seats until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall and the seat belt fits properly.

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