- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Three accidents yesterday caused major delays for motorists, including morning commuters on the Capital Beltway who were stuck in a seven-mile backup.

“Given the side of the Beltway and the time it happened, I don’t think it was a huge surprise that [traffic] backed up like it did,” said David Buck, a Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman.

A crash occurred at 8:10 a.m. on the Beltway’s Outer Loop near the Rhode Island Avenue exit. The driver of a United Parcel Service tractor-trailer changed lanes and hit a car, causing it to spin sideways. The vehicles stayed locked as the truck swerved into another lane, striking a delivery truck and setting off a chain reaction in which two more vehicles were struck.

State police said the tractor-trailer driver might have had a medical emergency, but he likely will be charged with failure to control speed and avoid collision.

“He may have passed out, or it was because of the sun or something,” said Trooper Michael Moore. “But he doesn’t remember anything that happened.”

Officials closed that section of the Outer Loop for about 45 minutes, re-opened the right two lanes shortly afterward, then opened all the lanes by 11 a.m.

Nobody was seriously injured, but three persons were taken to area hospitals.

Police have not released the names of those involved.

However, several people were seriously injured during the evening rush hour on Ridge Road in Damascus, in upper Montgomery County.

The crash occurred at about 5 p.m. in the 2500 block of the road, also known as Route 27.

Two emergency medical helicopters were called to the scene, said Pete Piringer, spokesman for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service.

The second major accident in the region yesterday morning occurred shortly before 9 a.m. on the eastbound span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

The accident backed up traffic on the east side of the bridge to Bayhead Road and to Duke Street on the west side. Investigators said the accident occurred when one tractor-trailer hit another from behind, blocking oncoming traffic on the westbound span.

No injuries were reported, but the driver of the truck that rear-ended the other was charged with failure to maintain proper speed, said Catherine Leahan, spokeswoman for the Maryland Transportation Authority police.

The bridge was reopened at 9:38 a.m.

Police have not released the names of those involved in that accident.

The accident was the second on the eastbound span of the bridge in two days. On Monday, Michael Hildebrand, of Chestertown, Md., was driving his pickup truck westbound and rear-ended another pickup — starting a chain reaction involving two other vehicles.

Traffic was stopped for an hour, and Mr. Hildebrand was charged with failure to control speed, police said. Three persons were transported with minor injuries to an Anne Arundel County hospital.

Miss Leahan said neither accident was related to weather.

“It’s just people not driving the way they’re supposed to be driving, and that leads to major problems,” she said.

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