According to a survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), highway fatalities increased by over 7 percent in the first nine months of 2012. The total number of fatalities increased from 1,696 to 25,580 during this time period. These numbers represent the largest increase in highway fatalities since the federal government began collecting data on traffic related deaths in 1975.
Teenagers are dying in highway accidents at even higher rates. The Governors Highway Safety Association recently released a report which found that traffic related fatalities among teenagers has increased by 19 percent nationally. For example, in the first six months of 2012, there were 240 traffic related fatalities involving teenagers.
Several factors may contribute to the higher rates of highway fatalities amongst teenagers.
For example, as the economy improves, the number of teenager drivers and the amount of discretionary driving is also increasing.
However, the most significant contributing factor to higher rates of teenage traffic accident fatalities appears to be distracted driving. Teenagers represent the largest group of distracted drivers on the road. Distracted driving involves actions which limit the driver’s ability to process what is going on around them. This includes visual distractions that take a person’s eyes off the road, manual distractions that take a person’s hands off the wheel, and cognitive distractions that take a person’s mind off driving. These distractions are brought on by activities such as, cell phone use, changing music, and eating while driving.
One out of every four car accidents involves distracted driving. Near 40 percent of American teenagers report being in a car where the driver used their cell phone in a matter that put themselves and others at risk of danger. In addition, 43 percent of teenagers acknowledge talking on their cell phones while driving. Moreover, distracted driving is the cause of 11 percent of all car accident fatalities amongst teenagers.
In order to combat this dangerous trend, the Federal government recently announced a $330 million initiative which aims to combat distracted driving.
The State of Maryland has also established laws aimed at preventing traffic accidents resulting from distracted driving. In Maryland, it is illegal for drivers to use their cell phones without a hands free device. However, this law is classified as a secondary offense. This means that the driver must commit a primary offense before they can be charged with this offense. Primary offenses include speeding and reckless driving. If charge for this offense, the driver will be fined $40 for the first infraction and $100 for each subsequent infraction.
In addition, the State has a law against texting while driving. This includes writing, sending, and reading texts and other electronic messages. Violating this law is a misdemeanor crime. If charged with this crime, you may also receive a fine not to exceed $500. However, there are exceptions carved out to allow drivers to use their cell phone GPS functions as well as, for contacting 911.
If you or your loved one has been injured or killed in a traffic accident involving distracted driving, contacting an attorney can help preserve your legal rights and ensure that your receive compensation
for your injuries.