Police alert motorists to the dangers of bad driving habits
Speed is the number one problem behind many of the traffic violations around town, said Bath Police Chief Craig Pearrell.
People are in a rush and are running stop signs, traffic lights and pedestrian crosswalks. Speed leads to accidents, he said.
Truck drivers will generally observe the crosswalks because the fines are double for them, but there are still locals who don’t want to stop at crosswalks, Pearrell said.
The police department gets numerous calls and walk-ins about crosswalk incidents.
A huge pet peeve of Pearrell’s is that people don’t come to a full stop at stop signs and before turning right at red traffic lights. The proper way to stop is to have all four wheels no longer in motion and count three seconds before pushing on the gas, he said.
Another concern is motorists passing on the right of stopped vehicles that are trying to turn left. One place he sees this happen is by the Berkeley Springs Post Office.
Pearrell noted that the driver of the turning vehicle is first in line with the right of way. They could decide at any moment to give up on turning and start moving down the road.
If a vehicle passing on the right collides with them, the passing vehicle would be at fault. Pearrell is concerned that someone could get seriously hurt in such an accident.
“The lines are on the road for a reason,” he said.
Police also ticket drivers who pass school buses with warning lights flashing for loading or unloading students.
Motorists who have rear-ended another vehicle will often tell him, “Well, they slammed on their brakes.” Pearrell said that when a driver hits someone’s vehicle from the rear, it’s their fault. It’s considered failure to maintain control of a vehicle.
He cautioned those following motorcycles to give them enough room on an inclined stop so they won’t drift back and hit their vehicle when they let out their clutch. Back away and give the motorcycle plenty of space, he said.
Motorists aren’t the only problem. Pedestrians can also cause issues by jaywalking or not paying attention.
Drivers, especially teens, can have many distractions, such as the radio, cell phones and others in the car. Accumulating distractions can add up to unsafe driving.
Pearrell would like to see motorists do more defensive driving. He wishes people would leave a few minutes earlier so they could slow down and be more aware of their surroundings while driving.
Sees accidents daily
Pearrell goes to accident scenes every day. When it’s a fatal accident, he wonders if that person wouldn’t have died if they had slowed down or wore their seat belt.
While you’re driving, look for the impossible to happen, he advised..
State Police Corporal A.T. Peer also reminded people about the dangers of passing on the right. He sees this a lot where people are heading southbound on U.S. 522 near the state police barracks and vehicles are trying to turn left into businesses.
People trying to turn out of a parking lot may not see someone passing on the right until it’s too late. They’ll just see the turning vehicle.
Peer said he responded to a wreck recently where a line of traffic was crawling along at three miles an hour from the Apple Butter Festival.
Someone rear-ended another vehicle because they looked up at their rear view mirror.
If people are dialing a cell phone or texting, they’re looking down at the keypad, even if it’s just for a second, Peer said.
They’ll run off to the road on the right, then get nervous, overcompensate and swerve to the left into oncoming traffic.
Peer cautioned parents not to mess with their kids in the backseat while driving. If they need to adjust safety belts or to discipline them, they should find a safe place to pull over first.
Now and then they get calls about people leaving children or animals unattended in the car, usually in the summer but they haven’t gotten any calls this year.
“People are pretty good around here about it,” Peer said.