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With all the coverage of Beltway gridlock and storms, one might suppose that jammed traffic and precipitation were the major culprits for fatal car crashes on the major highway system surrounding our nation’s capitol. However, evidence tends to suggest that weather is not a major factor in fatal Beltway crashes. Fifty-three of the 58 fatal accidents between 2007 and 2009 occurred under clear skies. According to news reports in the Washington Examiner, congestion may have played a part in some accidents. Twenty-two of the fatal crashes involved more than one vehicle.

What was surprising to Maryland, Virginia and DC car crash lawyer Doug Landau of the Herndon Law Firm ABRAMS LANDAU, was that most of the lethal crashes were single-car accidents. This statistic suggests that fast speeding drivers, intoxicated motorists, drunk drivers, distracted drivers — those talking on the phone while driving, for instance — and motorists who are just plain weary are the chief cause of accidents. This conclusion is supported by the information from Virginia’s Highway Safety Office. Furthermore, most fatal accidents occurred between midnight and 4 a.m., the traffic data show.

Data indicate that while the number of accidents each year has slightly declined, fatalities and injuries on the Beltway remained steady from 2000 to 2009. I-495 averaged 2,876 crashes each year in the time span, with 2,878 crashes in 2009, down from the 3,191 that occurred on the highway in 2000. However, an average of 18 deaths occurred on the road each year, including 20 in 2009, up from the 13 that occurred in 2000. In 2009, Maryland law enforcement officials began taking an aggressive approach. The state police reorganized enforcement efforts by placing more officers on the highway between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Thursday to Sunday, times when records show fatal crashes most often occur. The targeted enforcement shows signs of success. Police reported only three fatalities on the Beltway in Prince George’s in 2010.


  1. Gravatar for Harvey McFadden

    Loss of Control Accidents

    When looking at the cause of loss of control accidents it is advisable to look at the predictability of the vehicle in question. Everyone is aware that pickup trucks with a weight ratio front to rear of 60/40 need the best tires on the rear to prevent the back from sliding out in poor conditions.

    What is not evident to a casual observer are cars that have weight ratios more unbalanced than pickup’s. With a weight ratio of 65/35 a small car can weigh as much as a limo on the front and have only half as much weight on the rear. At this point the condition and the tread depth of the rear tires become’s critical to prevent the vehicle from getting sideways resulting in rollover or severe direction change. A vehicle with a weight ratio such as this will have four times the accidents of a 50/50 balanced car.

    There are some good videos on the Internet showing how important the rear tires of a vehicle are. Also the Society of Automotive Engineers paper 2002-01-0553 shows any decrease of tread depth from new of the rear tires can contribute to an accident. Also on youtube “ front wheel drive stability test”

  2. Gravatar for Doug Landau

    Should safety conscious drivers then continue to have their wheels balanced and rotated equally, or should they put more emphasis on the tread wear characteristics of their rear tires, if they drive one of the small 65/35 cars ?

    Thank you very much for your astute comment. doug

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