I was attempting to exit a highway during rush hour traffic today. The lane I was in was exit only, and lots of motorists like to use this empty lane to skip ahead of traffic, only to come to a complete stop before they actually have to exit, waiting for someone to allow them to merge back onto the highway. Before I was able to exit, I got stuck behind a number of cars doing exactly that. There were NO cars ahead of them, but they were completely stopped, hoping they could merge and skip ahead of traffic. There weren't many cars ahead of me, so I used the shoulder to go around them (I was only on the shoulder for a grand total of 5-10 seconds). Unfortunately, two state troopers were there waiting for people who were doing just that.
I was given citations for driving on the shoulder AND negligent driving. I'd be willing to eat the former - although I don't think it's fair - but the latter part, which includes a $140 fine AND two points on my license, seems to me to be too much. According to Maryland state law, Section 21-901.1(b) states:
"A person is guilty of negligent driving if he drives a motor vehicle in a careless or imprudent manner that endangers any property or the life or person of any individual."
I don't feel that anything I did falls into that description. I didn't just swerve carelessly into the shoulder and speed along ahead of traffic; I checked my mirrors, moved as if I were changing lanes, and stayed quite within the speed limit as I passed these vehicles who were stopped. Neither property nor personal safety was endangered. Is it reasonable that I can get this ticket thrown out?
Also, I wanted to ask about the actual driving on the shoulder violation...The officers were stopped there, on the shoulder, waiting for drivers who used the shoulder to pass the stopped vehicles in the exit only lane. I want to reinforce that there were NO CARS ahead of these stopped vehicles. These are people who are in an exit only lane and are attempting to merge out of it. Even if we assume that these are all nice people and none of them were using the exit only lane to skip traffic, that does not give them the right to stop in the middle of the road, does it? Another Maryland law:
"§ 21-804. Minimum speed regulation.
(a) Slow speed impeding traffic prohibited.- Unless reduced speed is necessary for the safe operation of the vehicle or otherwise is in compliance with law, a person may not willfully drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic. "
These people willfully stopped their vehicles when there were no cars or other obstructions ahead of them. Yes, they were just trying to merge out of an exit only lane, but that's tough crap for them as far as I'm concerned. I understand that presenting this argument in a court would likely be futile, but how can two officers sit there and ignore this blatant impediment of traffic, forcing other motorists to either sit and wait for someone to allow these cars to merge, or break the law to go around them? Would it be worth bringing up in court, if only to get the amount of the fine reduced?