In recent years, we’ve all become more aware of how distracted driving accidents are on the rise. In April of this year, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed a bill into law that will increase the penalties for those who cause serious car accidents while texting or using handheld cell phones. Because of the higher penalties now in effect, the state is hoping to decrease serious car accidents caused by distracted drivers.
Before this bill, automobile collisions resulting in serious injury or death that were caused by cell phone-distracted drivers were considered accidents. Under the new bill, these accidents will be misdemeanors. This means, of course, that not only will the distracted driver face consequences under civil law, such as expensive lawsuits, but they will also potentially face criminal charges as well.
In 2011, Baltimore City resident, five-year old Jake Owen, was killed when a distracted driver smashed an SUV into a vehicle holding Jake and two others. The driver of the SUV was on his cell phone and according to a data retrieval device in his car, the driver failed to apply his brakes when he hit Jake’s car at 62 MPH. According to the Change for Jake website, the SUV driver was fined only $1,000 for this fatal collision.
In February, Jake’s Law was introduced by delegate Luke Clippinger and Senator Roger Manno, as HB1212 and SB0348. The hearing and testimony took place before the House Judiciary Committee on February 26, and the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing took place on February 28 in the Senate. In April, Jake’s Law was passed and put into effect.
Under the new law, those who cause serious accidents because of cell phone distraction will face up to a year in jail and a fine of $5,000.
If you have been involved in a distracted driving accident caused by a cell phone-distracted driver, contact our personal injury lawyers at 1-800-776-4529. We can help you understand your rights, and take a stand with you.