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Parents push for better distracted driving laws

A Maryland family whose son was killed in a distracted driving accident last year is pushing for higher penalties for those who text behind the wheel. The child, age 5, died when the vehicle in which he was riding was struck by the negligent driver. The car accident was particularly violent, as the driver was traveling at about 62 mph without applying his brakes when he struck the family’s vehicle.

Even though the driver showed negligence in this case, it was not enough to get him convicted of a significant crime. Instead, the man was required to pay only $1,000 for two minor traffic citations in connection with the incident. He had initially been charged of criminally negligent manslaughter, along with reckless driving, but the driver was exonerated during criminal proceedings.

The problem, according to the child’s family, lies not with enforcement but with the current language of the law. Distracted driving regulations are often vague and difficult to follow; as a result, drivers are able to avoid criminal sanctions when they were clearly at fault for a wreck. The new legislation, which is being supported by lawmakers and publicized by the family, seeks to increase penalties for technology-related distracted driving and other inattentive driving practices. Additionally, the advocates are recruiting further support through the use of a comprehensive campaign that involves increasing awareness and t-shirt publicity.

Distracted drivers are indeed dangers to Maryland communities. Whether those drivers are texting, surfing the Web or even eating lunch, they can cause violent accidents because they are not paying attention to the road. Victims who have been injured or killed in a distracted-driving wreck may not see the at-fault driver pay through criminal sanctions, but those drivers can still be punished in the civil courts. Irresponsible drivers may be subject to civil claims including wrongful death, pain and suffering, emotional distress and loss of consort, among other allegations.

Source:, “Parents aim to toughen penalties after losing son to distracted driver” Pat Warren, Nov. 29, 2013