By: Allan M. Siegel
A new proposed law in Maryland is drawing attention to the dangers of distracted
driving and the widespread push to hold distracted drivers accountable
for causing preventable car accidents. The bill, known locally as "Jake's
Law," was inspired by a five-year-old Baltimore boy who was killed
when his mother's car was rear-ended by an SUV. The driver of the
SUV had been using a cellphone at the time.
Although the dangers of distracted driving are well-known, the ways in
which our laws address distracted driving accidents doesn't seem to
reflect just how serious and preventable they are. The driver who was
responsible for Jake's death could have faced imprisonment had he
been drunk. Instead, he was fined $1,000. This is what motivated Jake's
family and other local safety advocates to urge state lawmakers to reevaluate
current laws and penalties.
Jake's Law proposes the following:
- Increased penalties for drivers who cause traffic crashes while texting
or using a cellphone.
- Distracted drivers involved in serious traffic crashes would be required
to give authorities cellphone records so investigators can determine what
occurred during the time of collision.
Distracted Driving: The New Drunk Driving
While some have expressed privacy concerns about requiring drivers to supply
cellphone records, others have compared this part of the law to mandatory
chemical tests required of motorists suspected of driving under the influence.
In fact, many advocates believe that
distracted driving is the new drunk driving. There are many statistics and studies to support this:
- Distracted driving, like drunk driving, causes thousands of fatal auto
accidents each year.
- Several studies have found that crash risks associated with distracted
driving and drunk driving are similar. In some cases, distracted driving
may be more dangerous than drunk driving.
- Texting while driving doubles the risk of crashing, which is equivalent
to having four alcoholic drinks, according to the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration (NHTSA).
- At any given moment in the U.S., 660,000 drivers are using cell phones
or electronic devices.
Advocates for Victims
Because distracted driving poses real risks and because it has become extremely
common on our roadways, our legal team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata
& Siegel supports Jake's Law. Throughout the years, we have represented
many victims injured by distracted drivers and drunk drivers. Whether
their losses were caused by a distracted driver or an impaired driver,
each of their accidents were preventable.
We have fought on behalf of seriously injured victims, as well as families
who have lost loved ones. In one of our most recent cases, we secured a
$1.9 million settlement on behalf of the family of a man who was killed by a driver who was distracted
by her cell phone. She was speeding while going around a curve, while
trying to plug her phone into her lighter. She lost control and ran off
the road, striking our client, who was walking on the grass. She was convicted
of vehicular manslaughter and is currently serving a jail sentence. While
she was punished by the law for her actions, many people are not. Most
importantly, Jake's law would publicize the dangers of driving while
distracted, and make people understand that it is not only dangerous, but
against the law.
If you or someone you love has been injured in an auto accident caused
by an impaired or distracted driver, our Maryland car accident lawyers
can help. While this law, if passed, may not make it illegal to drive
while distracted in Virginia and Washington, D.C. it is still negligent
to drive while distracted by a cell phone in Maryland, Washington, D.C.
or Virginia. This law hopefully will increase awareness in states across
the country and prevent unnecessary and tragic car accidents. To learn
more about your case and rights, call 888-885-5638 for a FREE consultation.