When we asked some truck drivers what could be done to reduce the number of big-rig accidents that occur on our local stretch of Interstate 68, several said enforcement of speed limits is the answer. (See: “A case of ‘driver error,’” and “Driving instructor,” Sept. 3 Times-News, Page 1A.)
Truckers — and people in automobiles, for that matter — can drive through Cumberland without wrecking and killing themselves or other someone else. The truckers who know what they’re doing drive at the speed limit and in the right-hand lane. Those who don’t are the ones who cause problems.
One driver told our reporter Jeffrey Alderton that “Any trucker that runs (Interstate) 68 regularly knows there’s usually no cops through that 45-mile-an-hour section and they just can roll through.” (See: “Trucking group issues ...,” Nov. 4 Times-News, Page 1A.)
It has been said that nothing is illegal if you don’t get caught. Catch enough of the speeding truckers and fine them, and the word will get around.
The Washington Post reported recently Google Maps now has an app that reports speed traps, accidents and traffic jams. If such things get drivers to slow down — and truckers are aware that going fast through Cumberland will get them busted — that would be a good thing.
Anyone who has been caught up in what can be hours of stalled or slowly moving traffic on I-68 after one of these wrecks might well agree that “Something needs to be done to slow these people down.”
In our previous coverage of this phenomenon — four recent wrecks in the same section of I-68 — one experienced trucker told Alderton the problem is caused by “flatlanders” who are used to driving at high speed on freeways elsewhere and aren’t as familiar with their vehicles as they should be.
Recently, the Maryland Motor Truck Association told its members “to use extreme caution” while traveling the interstate from the Garrett County line through Cumberland. It relayed the message to several other trucking associations elsewhere.
Other steps are being taken, including the grinding of some asphalt patches to help provide extra traction for large vehicles.
Rain and a slick roadway played a factor in a wreck Oct 7 on I-68 in which a tractor-trailer skidded into a light pole, then got hung up on a guardrail near the Beall Street exit.
That’s near the infamous “Moose Curve,” the eastbound half of which has been the site of numerous accidents caused by tractor-trailers far exceeding the 45 mph speed limit posted in that area.
A large and substantially built wall eventually was constructed along the curve because the trucks were winding up in the parking lot of what then was the Moose lodge. It bears scars and other marks left by speeding, out-of-control vehicles.
A former city official who was in office at the time visited us recently to say that he has been following our coverage of the I-68 situation, and that speeding on the interstate was as much of a problem back then as it is today.
He said the problem actually starts near Frostburg, when I-68 eastbound starts a long continuous descent down the mountain. The road is fairly straight until it passes through LaVale, and then the sharp turns start coming.
Increased patrol cooperation by Maryland State Police and the Allegany County Sheriff’s Office starting on that road would help, he said.
A truck pull-off area is available on eastbound I-68 before the sharp turn that leads to an off-ramp that takes traffic to U.S. Route 220, but he said drivers rarely use it to stop and let their brakes cool down.
He said the city asked the State Highway Administration to make the pull-off mandatory, but was told that couldn’t be done.
For a time, back in the day, he said Cumberland Police used rolling roadblocks, with cruisers running side-by-side at the speed limit, positioning themselves in such a way as to prevent anyone passing them.
(Why anyone would try to pass a police car that’s doing the speed limit is beyond our understanding, but we have seen it happen.)
Additional signage alerting drivers to the road conformation ahead is being planned, and state police say they are planning increased enforcement of the truck speed limit.
Start pulling the offenders over and make them pay for it. Do it enough times, and that should eliminate most of the problem. Truck drivers themselves are saying the same thing.
A HAPPY 244TH BIRTHDAY to the United States Marine Corps, which was established by the Second Continental Congress on Nov. 10, 1775, as the Continental Marines.