Distracted driving has become one of the leading causes of traffic collisions. Car accident casualties and fatalities continue to increase on US roadways, prompting many states to enact harsher legislation against distracted driving. According to a May 30, 2017 press release issued by the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) on BusinessWire, nine states recently joined the battle by passing laws that raise the fines and penalties for distracted driving – especially texting while driving. In another three states, a bill is awaiting signature from the governors in order to become effective. In Maryland, the law prohibits the use of any handheld phone while driving, including:
- Sending or reading text messages or email;
- Surfing the internet;
- Taking a photo;
- Checking weather or maps;
- Reviewing social media;
- Talking on the phone; and,
- Any other activity involving the use of a phone.
A PCI spokesperson stated that measures such as Maryland’s districted driver laws are crucial in combatting distracted driving. Stronger enforcement, raising public awareness, and stressing personal accountability will also have a positive impact. However, these initiatives do little to accommodate the victims of car accidents as a result of distracted driving. Injuries and death are still occurring at an alarming rate.
US Statistics on Car Accidents Due to Distracted Driving and Texting While Driving
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
- In 2015, 3,477 people lost their lives and another 391,000 were injured in car accidents involving distracted motorists; and,
- In a given day, during daylight hours, around 660,000 motorists are using cell phones while driving – exponentially increasing the potential for accidents.
- However, the most shocking statistics on distracted driving relate to texting: Reading or sending a text requires the eyes to focus on a smartphone for five seconds. Traveling at 55 miles per hour, that motorist has driven the length of a football field without his or her eyes on the road.
Statistics on Distracted Driving Accidents in Maryland
The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) has released its “2017 Distracted Driving Program Area Brief,” covering a range of different statistics on distracted driving in the state from 2011-2015. Details include:
- On average, 27,000 people are killed or injured due to distracted driving;
- Trends indicate that metropolitan areas are the most dangerous, with Baltimore and Washington, DC comprising 85% of all collisions resulting from distracted driving. Breaking down this figure:
- 47% of distracted driving crashes occurred in the Baltimore metropolitan region;
- 37.6% of the incidents happened in DC; and,
- 15.4% of collisions occurred in other parts of the state.
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
Any activity that sidetracks a driver’s attention interferes with the primary task at hand, which should be to safely operate the vehicle. The types of driver distractions fall into four main categories:
- Visual, where the motorist’s focus drifts to something other than the road and surrounding conditions;
- Auditory, when a noise diverts attention to a factor unrelated to driving;
- Manual, if the activity requires the operator to handle some object or device other than the steering wheel; and,
- Cognitive, where the driver is thinking about a topic not related to operating the car.
Texting involves three of these distractions, and four if the phone has auditory features that might interfere with driving. Talking on the phone puts all four factors into play. Still, any one of these distractions interferes with the driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely, putting other motorists, passengers, and pedestrians at risk.
Increased Frequency of Distracted Driving Means More Victims
With this heightened potential for car crashes comes an increase in the number of injured victims and deaths. If you are injured, it is not enough that the responsible driver gets a ticket or potential jail time. Your medical bills are piling up and you may be unable to work. Plus, your pain and suffering may be extreme, your mental health is compromised, and your relationships are impacted. You may even sustain a disability, and the costs of ongoing treatment in the future may be astronomical. Fortunately, state law does allow you to obtain compensation from the responsible driver. With an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney on your side, you can recover a financial award to cover your losses. A skilled lawyer can assist with:
- Filing a claim with the responsible driver’s insurance company, stating the details of the accident, describing your injuries, providing information on your losses, and making a demand for compensation in the designated amount;
- Engaging in settlement discussions with the insurance agent, with legal arguments and additional evidence intended to support the demand amount;
- Initiating a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf, including preparation of necessary documents and supporting information;
- Appearing in court for status and motion hearings, settlement conferences, and pre-trial proceedings;
- Managing discovery matters, such as requests for production of documents, requests to admit facts, written interrogatories, and depositions;
- Working with experts on your case, including consulting and testifying witnesses that specialize in the medical concepts related to your injuries; and,
- Preparing for and attending your trial.
Obviously, there is an enormous amount of work and preparation involved with any car accident case, including incidents resulting from distracted driving. Retaining a qualified personal injury attorney is the key to your success in obtaining the highest amount of compensation allowed by Maryland law. You need an advocate that will fight for your rights in dealings with an insurance company and in court. It is also important to hire a lawyer with comprehensive knowledge of the laws and procedural rules, as attention to detail can make or break your case. Plus, extensive experience in handling car accident cases is priceless. An attorney that has represented clients in numerous personal injury matters has skills that can only be learned, developed, and mastered in a courtroom.
If you have sustained injuries or lost a loved one due to another driver’s distracted driving, please contact the Baltimore Maryland law office of Bob Katz today to schedule a no charge consultation to discuss your circumstances.