Since the advent of smart phones, traffic accidents connected to distracted driving have been growing. Drivers, tempted by virtually unlimited connectivity, are increasingly splitting their attention between the road and their devices.
Distracted driving laws
Many states are cracking down on this problem by passing laws to discourage such behavior. Maryland has made it illegal to talk on the phone while driving, unless the driver uses a hands-free device. Drivers in violation of this rule can face a fine of between $40 and $100.
In addition, the state has banned writing, reading or sending any text-based message while driving-with the exception of using GPS or contacting emergency services. The penalty for this offense is one of the most severe in the country. Violators can be charged with a misdemeanor and, if convicted, have to pay up for $500 in fines.
Additional penalties for distraction
While $500 for a text may seem like a steep price to pay, consider this scenario: If a reckless driver crashes into you, you could forfeit your right to compensation if you were distracted at the time of the accident. This is because Maryland is one of the few remaining states to enforce contributory negligence law.
Contributory negligence states that if both parties have some degree of fault in an accident, the party with the least fault may not recover any damages from the party most at fault. Let's say you're sending a text while driving down the road. As you enter an intersection, a drunk driver in the adjoining road speeds through a red light, crashing into you. While the drunk driver was clearly in the wrong, your unlawful texting while driving also constitutes negligence-albeit comparatively minor. Therefore, you have no legal recourse to seek compensation for vehicle damages or your own pain and suffering.
Driver distraction is a leading cause of accidents in Maryland. Remaining alert on the road not only increases your safety, it also safeguards your right to seek justice in the event of an accident.