In December of 2011, 5-year-old Jake Owen was killed when the driver of an SUV traveling 62 mph struck the back of the vehicle in which he was a passenger. During the investigation, it became clear that the at-fault driver was using his phone and did not even look up to apply the brakes before the crash. Because of the laws in place, the driver faced only $500 in fines for the fatal crash. As of October 1, 2014, distracted drivers in Maryland will not get off so easy.
Jake’s Law, named after the child killed in 2011, results in much tougher penalties for distracted drivers. Now, distracted drivers could face up to a year in jail, a $5,000 fine and 12 points against their license. Jake’s mother hopes that this new law serves as a deterrent for distracted driving and not just as a punishment. The intent of the law is to prevent distraction-related crashes.
It often takes time for lawmakers to catch up with the changing times. When Jake Owen was killed, there weren’t nearly as many smart phones in the marketplace as there are now. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are over 300 million wireless subscriptions in the United States today and at least 3,000 deaths result from distracted driving each year. Over 100,000 drivers are texting at any given daylight moment and over 600,000 drivers are holding phones to their ears while driving.
What makes distracted driving so dangerous? Making a phone call, reading an email and sending a text can pull your focus and eyes from the roadway. If your hands are not on the wheel and your attention is not on traffic, you may fail to notice that you are about to crash. If you are looking at your phone, you may not notice slowed traffic, roadway debris or changing traffic lights.
If you have been involved in a Maryland car accident involving a distracted driver, please make sure you learn about your legal rights and options. A Maryland personal injury attorney is often needed to ensure that fair compensation is offered to victims of distracted driving crashes.