November 25, 2014

D.C.'s Contributory Negligence Law Upheld (Again) … Just Like in Maryland

If you're the victim of a motor vehicle or pedestrian accident in Maryland, don't assume the legal odds are stacked in your favor. Like our neighbors in Washington, D.C., Maryland has something called a contributory negligence law. This means if you are found to be even one percent responsible for the accident -- your insurance claim may be denied and you may be barred from collecting damages or compensation for your injuries.

Contributory negligence is the primary reason you need an experienced accident injury lawyer if you're hurt in a motor vehicle crash in Maryland.

The law sounds unfair. And victims' rights advocates would agree it is unfair. However, contributory negligence laws here in Maryland and Washington, D.C. have yet to be overturned.

Like in Maryland, D.C. public safety groups have pushed for legislation to change the district's contributory negligence law to comparative negligence. Comparative negligence determines how the responsibility for an accident would be shared between the parties involved in a crash.

Unfortunately, a bill proposed by a D.C. Council panel to end contributory negligence for bikers and pedestrians was just killed in committee. The bill would have made it easier for bicyclists and pedestrians to collect damages when they are injured in a motor vehicle accident. The contributory negligence standard governs tort claims in the District.

As we know from our experience as accident injury attorneys in Baltimore County, Maryland, bicyclists and pedestrians can suffer catastrophic and fatal injuries when they're involved in a motor vehicle crash.

However that vulnerability was not enough to move lawmakers in D.C. to exempt bikers and pedestrians from the law. Insurance companies object to changing the contributory negligence law, which is no surprise to us. This was D.C.'s third attempt at changing the law, and failing.

Though Maryland's own contributory negligence law is archaic, it still stands. Like our neighbors in D.C., Maryland has also seen bills targeting contributory negligence considered by state lawmakers, only to die a quiet death. (See link to related blog article, below.)

Maryland is one of only four states and the District of Columbia to keep a contributory negligence law on its books. The other states are Virginia, Alabama and North Carolina. Victims' rights advocates describe these contributory negligence laws as "harsh." That's why other states have overturned them.

But until our state lawmakers agree and change the law -- contributory negligence is, indeed, the law of the land in Maryland. That's why we fight hard for our clients. Don't attempt to go it alone if you're injured in a traffic accident…the law is not in your favor.

Related Baltimore Accident Injury Attorney article:
Maryland Personal Injury Law : Court Upholds Contributory Negligence Law in Soccer Player Accident Case (July 2013)


D.C. Council proposal to protect bicyclists, pedestrians dies in committee Nov. 25, 2014

Comparative vs. Contributory Negligence

October 30, 2014

Maryland Drivers : Have You Received a GM or Other Auto Safety Recall Notice?

General Motors has been in the news for all the wrong reasons this year, with millions of vehicles recalled for alleged safety hazards — and the company under fire from Congress and consumers over related motor vehicle accident deaths. The defect that's received the most coverage involves an ignition switch that can allegedly turn off while the vehicle is in motion. Thirteen deaths have been linked to that reported defect, some going back many years.

Auto safety recalls cover a range of known safety hazards and potential problems in cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles and other motor vehicles, as well as tire defects. Sometimes the vehicle manufacturer initiates the recall on its own, while other times the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) orders the recall based on consumer complaints and its own investigations.

If you've owned more than one vehicle in Maryland, chances are at some point you've received an auto safety recall notice in the mail. Did you call your dealership right away to get the defective part repaired? That's the safe and responsible thing to do. However auto industry watchers estimate a full one-third of consumers ignore safety recall notices -- at risk to themselves, their passengers, the driving public and pedestrians.

When consumers ignore automotive safety recall notices, they are driving vehicles that may pose serious public safety hazards. What's more, unrepaired vehicles sold on the used car market have traditionally been more difficult to track. Carfax estimates one in ten used vehicles sold online have unrepaired safety issues.

NHTSA now offers a new online search tool that allows consumers to input their VIN (vehicle identification number) to see if any recall notices have been issued for that specific vehicle. They also offer ways to search by vehicle make, model and year. (See link below under "Resources.")

If you own a vehicle in Maryland and receive an auto safety recall notice -- don't ignore it. The auto manufacturer is obliged to repair or replace the defective equipment at no charge to the consumer. Make the time and get the problem fixed. You could be saving your own life or someone else's.

Related Baltimore Injury Attorney Article:

Maryland Drivers : Is Your Car on the List of GM Safety Recalls? (April 2014)


Consumers Ignore Auto Recall Notices at Their Own Risk
TheStreet / Main Street April 16, 2014

GM probe blames incompetence for long delay in deadly defect case
Baltimore Sun June 5, 2014

Auto dealers handle national recall increase
Democrat and Chronicle Oct. 8, 2014


Search Safety Issues: Recalls, Investigations &

September 5, 2014

Maryland Teen Drivers and Texting While Driving : Do State Laws Need to Go Further to Prevent Distracted Driving Crashes?

Earlier this summer, we wrote about Maryland's efforts to prevent distracted driving accidents. Cell phone use while driving — including texting while driving — poses a deadly hazard on our nation's roadways. Teenage drivers, a traditionally hard-to-reach group, are known for engaging in this dangerous practice. Teens have plenty of distractions in the car, especially when driving with multiple passengers. Add electronics to the mix and it's a recipe for disaster.

Motor vehicle crashes are the number-one cause of death for young Americans ages 15 to 20. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that while teens account for 6 percent of the driving public, they comprise 9 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes and 13 percent of drivers involved in police-reported crashes. The traffic safety group Toward Zero Deaths Maryland estimates…

  • Some 30,000 injuries occur every year in Maryland due to distracted-driving crashes

  • In 2012, more than 50,000 distracted driving accidents occurred in Maryland, accounting for more than 58% of all motor vehicle crashes and 46% of all fatal crashes in the state

  • That same year, 76% of drivers killed in Maryland distracted-driving crashes were male, and 36% of drivers were between 21 and 34 years old

So what is Maryland doing to prevent distracted-driving accidents among teens?

  • Maryland bans texting while driving for all drivers. In fact, most states do. The only states where texting while driving is not illegal are Arizona and Montana.

  • Maryland bans all cell phone use for novice drivers under age 18 with a learner or provisional license -- as a secondary offense. Using hand-held cell phones while driving is a primary offense for all drivers.

  • The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) driver's license manual cites numerous examples of what comprises distracted driving. The MVA's online tutorial quizzes novices on whether texting while driving is illegal or allowed under certain conditions (it is illegal).

  • Distraction & Reaction is a prevention and awareness program presented by Delaware-based SmartDrive, which is partnered with the Maryland Highway Safety Office. The program is offered through a number of high schools on Maryland's Eastern Shore. The curriculum has an online learning component to teach teens about the science of distracted driving. Teens then drive a golf-car like vehicle through a course where they're presented with distractions such as time constraints, cell phone conversations, texting and too many passengers.

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report Distracted & Dangerous notes that parents have an important role to play in getting safe driving messages through to teenagers. The report notes that some research suggests novice bans on cell phone use and texting may not be as effective when those laws change for adult drivers. Teens are impressionable and tend to mimic their parents' behavior.

The GHSA report writes "…banning cell phone use and texting by all drivers may provide an opportunity to support the establishment of rules for novice drivers that are modeled by parents." No cell phone use while driving, at all? It's a controversial idea, one that people who are attached to their cell phones -- and today's constant digital flow of communication and information -- might not like.

More research needs to be done in the area of hands-free cell phone devices, as some safety advocates believe that hands free isn't risk free. (Currently, Maryland allows talking on cell phones while driving using hands-free devices for adult drivers.) Traffic safety laws in Maryland and around the U.S. continue to evolve, as the technology seems to evolve even faster. One thing is for sure: If it's new and trendy and portable, our teens will likely have it.

Related Baltimore Injury Lawyer article:

What Is Maryland Doing to Prevent Distracted Driving Accidents.


Toward Zero Deaths Maryland

Distracted & Dangerous: Helping States Keep Teens Focused on the Road (PDF)
Governors Highway Safety Association Aug. 2014

GHSA: State Distracted Driving Laws Sept. 2014


July 1, 2014

OSHA Aims to Reduce Construction Accident Deaths in Maryland

This summer, the United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is launching a construction safety awareness and education campaign in the Mid-Atlantic to prevent construction accident injuries and deaths. OSHA is targeting the top four causes of accidental death in the construction industry: falls, crushing, electrocution and caught-in-between accidents.

OSHA compliance officers and other staff participating in the "Construction Incident Prevention Initiative" will conduct educational outreach with employers in Maryland as well as Delaware, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Virginia and West Virginia. According to the OSHA press release: "The initiative will target health hazards involving silica, lead and hexavalent chromium, and will draw on OSHA's national campaigns to prevent fall hazards at construction sites and heat illness among outdoor workers."

The leading cause of construction accident fatalities in Maryland, along with the rest of the U.S., is falls. Lack of fall protection is the number-one reason OSHA cites employers for safety violations.

Falling from a higher elevation accounts for nearly all fatalities resulting from construction fall accidents. This includes accidents involving ladders, scaffolding, roofs, bridge decking, as well as holes in floors such as skylights.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' preliminary data for 2013 identified 294 fall fatalities out of 796 total fatalities in construction. Of those 294 falls, 284 were falls to a lower level. These types of fall accidents can be prevented when employers and construction workers are trained in proper equipment setup, usage and safety measures.

OSHA reports that in June, "tens of thousands of employers and more than 1 million workers across the country joined OSHA in safety stand-downs to focus on preventing fatalities from falls. Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, with hundreds of workers dying each year and thousands more facing serious injuries."

Related Maryland Construction Accident Attorney Articles:

Maryland Construction Worker Safety : OSHA Cites "Fatal Four" Types of Accidents (Dec. 2013)

Maryland Work Safety : Falls the Leading Cause of Construction Accident Deaths (May 2013)


Summer initiative stresses safety in construction throughout the Mid Atlantic
OSHA QuickTakes Newsletter July 1, 2014

US Department of Labor's OSHA announces summer 'Construction Incident Prevention Initiative' in Delaware
OSHA Press Release June 18, 2014

OSHA Stop Falls campaign

June 15, 2014

What Is Maryland Doing to Prevent Distracted Driving Accidents?

Back in the day when families typically owned one car (usually a sedan or station wagon the size of Delaware), "distracted driving" meant fiddling with the radio, eating a messy sandwich or yelling at kids in the back seat to settle down. Those rolling activities still fall under the government's definition of distracted driving, along with smoking, putting on makeup and other things that take the driver's eyes off the road and hands off the wheel.

The advent of the cell phone, however, took distracted driving to a new level. These devices that keep us connected and put information at our fingertips have become indispensable. It's disturbing to think our new generation of drivers never knew a time when they didn't have a phone in their car. Once people could text on their cell phones, the problem of distracted driving on our roadways got worse. Some public safety experts believe texting while driving is as much of a hazard as drunk driving. Teens texting while driving is particularly troublesome.

Over the years, states like Maryland have taken measures to pass laws, educate the public, focus on teens and parents, and partner with schools, agencies and other organizations to prevent distracted driving accidents. Maryland is among the 47 states and the District of Columbia to pass specific distracted driving laws.

In 2012, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) surveyed its members to see where states had made gains, and where more needs to be done. Here are a few examples of what Maryland has done to prevent distracted driving accidents:

  • In 2008, Maryland added distracted driving to its strategic highway safety plans.

  • Maryland has state distracted driver laws on its books. E.g., Text messaging while driving is against the law for all drivers, and using hand-held cell phones was recently made a primary offense. Maryland also bans cell phone use for novices and school bus drivers (see link to related article, below).

  • Maryland state crash report forms collect data on cell phone use by vehicle operator, and failure to pay full-time and attention.

  • Maryland reports that in the last three years, distracted driving crashes have decreased.

  • Maryland has taken steps to educate the public about distracted driving. E.g., The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration partnered with Maryland Shock Trauma to produce a "Get the Message" video. However, the state does not have its own campaign message/tagline.

Under the GHSA survey category of "Major Obstacles in the Area of Distracted Driving," Maryland listed the following: Lack of public support; lack of funding for enforcement; lack of distracted driving data collection; and lack of state-specific research. Maryland also does not work with employers to develop workforce distracted driving policies.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration estimates that more than 30,000 people in Maryland are injured every year due to distracted driving crashes. Despite recent gains, Maryland still could do more to prevent distracted driving accidents, including crashes caused by texting while driving.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney articles:

New Maryland Traffic Safety Laws Target Cell Phone and Seat Belt Use (Jan. 2014)

More Drivers Admit to Web Surfing While Behind the Wheel (Nov. 2013)


Distracted Driving Survey of the States (PDF)
Governors Highway Safety Association July 2013

May 16, 2014

Top 2 Causes of Baltimore - Towson Workplace Fatalities (Not What You Might Think)

Last month, President Barack Obama declared April 28 Workers' Memorial Day. OSHA (the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration) memorialized fallen workers across the country. At the same time, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported its final numbers for worker fatalities in 2012. That year, 4,628 workers lost their lives on the job. This was a slight decrease in national workplace death statistics compared to 2011.

Baltimore, MD workers' compensation lawyers like us know that any life lost on the job is a tragedy, both for the worker and his or her family. No one plans to go off to work and not come home that day. But accidents happen, sometimes due to negligence or recklessness on the part of employers, property owners, company owners and even coworkers. Construction accidents -- particularly falls -- remain one of the top causes of worker injury and death in the U.S.

The preliminary 2012 workplace fatality data for Baltimore / Towson, Maryland reflect national trends. But one of the top two causes of worker death in our region may not be what you'd expect. According to the BLS, 34 people died on the job or as a result of work-related injury in Baltimore - Towson in 2012. This was up from 28 worker deaths in 2011. Transportation accidents tied for the top cause of workplace fatality. The other top reason people die on the job in Baltimore - Towson might surprise you: Workplace violence.

Here are the top causes and types of accidents/injuries for Baltimore - Towson in 2012:

  • Violence and other injuries by persons or animals (26 percent). This includes intentional injuries by another person, including shootings and stabbings, as well as self-inflicted injury.

  • Transportation incidents (26 percent), including roadway incidents with motorized land vehicles (e.g., highway construction site accidents) and roadway collisions

  • Falls, slips and trips (18 percent), including falling to lower levels

  • Exposure to harmful substances or environments (12 percent), including exposure to electricity

  • Contact with objects and equipment (18 percent), including being struck by transportation and non-transport vehicles, and being struck by rolling objects or equipment

OSHA reports that some 2 million U.S. workers are victims of workplace violence every year. While dramatic cases -- such as those perpetrated by disgruntled employees -- make the news headlines, those are not the most common forms of workplace violence.

OSHA says the most vulnerable are "workers who exchange money with the public; deliver passengers, goods, or services; or work alone or in small groups, during late night or early morning hours, in high-crime areas, or in community settings and homes where they have extensive contact with the public.

This group includes health-care and social service workers such as visiting nurses, psychiatric evaluators, and probation officers; community workers such as gas and water utility employees, phone and cable TV installers, and letter carriers; retail workers; and taxi drivers." The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) requires employers to provide a safe and healthful workplace for all workers. OSHA offers employers and employees guidance on keeping the workplace safe (see link to PDF document below under "Sources").

Worker injury or death caused by workplace violence is generally covered under Maryland Workers' Compensation law. As with all cases of work-related injury or fatality, it's best to consult an experience Maryland Workers' Comp attorney about your rights.

Related Maryland Work Injury Attorney Article:

Dangerous Jobs in Maryland : OSHA Site Specific Inspections Target High-Risk, Non-Construction Workplaces (Jan. 2013)


OSHA Factsheet: Workplace Violence (PDF)

President Obama proclaims April 28, 2014 Workers' Memorial Day
OSHA Quick Takes, May 1, 2014

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Maryland -- Safety & Health
Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries

Workplace Fatalities in Baltimore-Towson, MD – Full Tables
Table 1. Fatal occupational injuries by event or exposure, Baltimore-Towson, MD, 2011-2012

April 15, 2014

Maryland Drivers : Is Your Car on the List of GM Safety Recalls?

General Motors has recalled an estimated 7 million motor vehicles this year for safety issues in a number of cars and SUVs, model years 2003 to 2015. Problems include faulty ignition switches, power steering and side airbags in certain Chevy, Pontiac and Saturn vehicles. Maryland drivers, is one of these recalled cars in your driveway? See link to GM owners' portal below to search for your vehicle and see if it's been recalled. Failure to have a recalled vehicle repaired by the dealer could lead to a serious or even fatal motor vehicle accident.

One of the most serious safety issues to land GM in the headlines of late involves a faulty ignition switch, which could shut off the car unexpectedly, disabling the power steering and power brakes. Vehicles involved in the ignition switch recall include the Chevy Cobalt, Pontiac G5, Saturn Ion and others.

The faulty GM ignition switch has been blamed for a number of motor vehicle accidents and 13 deaths. Now that the problem has come to light, GM officials are under intense scrutiny, with government leaders and the public demanding to know who knew what and when. For a full list of GM vehicle makes and model years involved in the ignition switch recall, see the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) / webpage link, below.

Other GM recalls involve faulty transmission cooling lines in certain Chevy and GMC SUVs; problems with brake assembly plugs in certain Cadillac XTS sedans; a defective axle shaft in the Chevy Cruze turbo, which could lead to the car losing power; and problems with the instrument panel in the Chevy Express and GMC Savannah.

General Motors will send safety recall notifications to owners of the affected vehicles. As Baltimore County auto accident lawyers, we see the results of serious motor vehicle crashes. Which is why it's hard for us to believe -- and may come as a surprise to responsible drivers -- that many vehicle owners in fact ignore safety recall notices.

Industry watchers out of Detroit estimate that a full third of recalled cars and trucks don't get repaired, and as many as one in seven vehicles on the road has an unrepaired recall issue. This puts not only those drivers and passengers at risk, but the life and welfare of other motorists and pedestrians -- if the driver looses control and the vehicle crashes. If you own a GM vehicle, check to see if it's on the recall list. If it is, call your dealer for an appointment. Manufacturers are required to make recall repairs free of charge to the owners, and many dealers provide loaner vehicles. Do it for yourself, your family and the Maryland driving public.


GM Owners' Web Portal -- Recalls

Consumer Alert: GM Ignition Switch Recall Information
NHTSA / Collected April 15, 2014

2014 GM Recall Roundup
Yahoo! Voices April 4, 2014

GM expands ignition switch recall to 2.6 million cars
Reuters March 28, 2014

Despite risks, many recalled vehicles will remain unrepaired as drivers ignore notices
Automotive News April 15, 2014

March 31, 2014

Preventing Pedestrian Accidents: New Rule Requires Auto Backup Cameras by 2018

Have you ever started backing out of your driveway or a parking spot in Maryland, only to slam on your brakes when a child or adult suddenly appears behind your car? Pedestrian accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates some 210 backover deaths occur in the US every year. In response to this safety hazard, NHTSA has proposed a rule requiring auto manufacturers to install rear backup cameras in most new vehicles by May 2018.

Blind spots hamper drivers' ability to see everything that's in back of their vehicle. Even with side mirrors, it's difficult to get a clear view of what's behind the car, truck, SUV or minivan. Some of the saddest news stories we've heard about as Maryland pedestrian accident lawyers involve parents or neighbors backing up over children -- children who are playing in the driveway or who suddenly dash behind the vehicle. NHTSA estimates about one-third of backover deaths are children, with many caused by parents.

Other at-risk groups: Pedestrians listening to music or preoccupied with texting may not notice a vehicle that is about to back up in their path. (See link to our related story on "Distracted Walking" below.) Busy parking lots can be risky places for back-up pedestrian accidents, with so many cars and shoppers moving about in tight spaces. The elderly are also at higher risk for being in serious or deadly pedestrian accidents.

The new rule has been a long time coming. CNN reports that a 2008 law required NHTSA to create rules to prevent backup accidents. It's taken until now for the rule to be proposed—something public and traffic safety advocates are applauding. The proposed rule would require all new cars, sport utility vehicles and minivans, as well as some new small trucks and buses, to carry rear visibility technology by May 2018. Many luxury model automobiles already come with backup cameras installed.

NHTSA estimates between 59 and 69 deaths a year could be prevented by drivers using backup cameras. The rear-facing cameras will cost about $140 per vehicle to install. Opponents object to government regulations of this nature, though laws governing seat belt use have proven to save lives. Until rear-view cameras are required in all vehicles -- it's best to back up slowly and turn around and LOOK to make sure you know what's behind you.

Related Maryland Accident Injury Attorney Article:
Distracted Pedestrian Accidents on the Rise Due to Texting While Walking (Aug. 2013)

U.S. requires new cars to have backup cameras
CNN Money March 31, 2014

NHTSA to require backup camera on all vehicles
USA Today March 31, 2014

February 28, 2014

Maryland Auto Crash Death Rates Increase in 2012

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) analyzed US auto accident fatality rates for 2012.* In Maryland, 456 fatal motor vehicle crashes were recorded with 505 related deaths. That's an increase over the 485 auto crash fatalities reported in 2011 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Maryland's 505 crash related deaths in 2012 amounts to 8.6 deaths per 100,000 population and 0.90 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. That is less than the overall US rate of 10.7 deaths per 100,000 population. By comparison, North Dakota had the highest death rate at 24.3 deaths per 100,000, while our neighbors in District of Columbia had the lowest rate at 2.4 deaths.

The IIHS report reveals other facts about fatal Maryland traffic crashes in 2012:

-- 45% were passenger car occupants
-- 18% were pickup truck and SUV occupants
-- 1% were large truck occupants
-- 14% were motorcyclists
-- 19% were pedestrians
-- 1% were bicyclists

In addition, 44 percent of fatal Maryland crashes were single-vehicle crashes, while 56 percent were multi-vehicle crashes. Those of us who live and work in Maryland know the dangers of our winding back roads. However, 60 percent of fatal Maryland crashes occurred in urban areas, while 39 percent occurred in rural areas.

Not surprisingly, drunk driving continues to be a deadly threat on our nation's highways, including in Maryland. Of the 233 drivers killed in Maryland crashes in 2012 -- 72 percent were found to have blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels greater than the legal limit of .08.

Maryland auto accident injury lawyers like us know the stories behind the crash fatality data. Each death recorded is a life tragically cut short -- a man, woman or child who didn't make it home that day. We see the heartbreak left in the wake of a fatal accident, as families cope with the sudden loss of a loved one. The emotional and financial toll can be overwhelming, which is why we're here to help families who've lost someone in a Maryland motor vehicle accident.

Maryland has taken measures in recent years to cut down on motor vehicle crashes, injuries and fatalities. This includes adding further restrictions to laws regulating cell phone and seat belt use, installing more speed cameras at dangerous intersections and in school zones, and mounting public awareness campaigns. Still, any death on Maryland's roadways is one death too many. Recent statistics show we still have much work to do to achieve zero traffic accident deaths.

* Data gathered by the US Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney Articles:

New Maryland Traffic Safety Laws Target Cell Phone and Seat Belt Use (Jan. 2014)

Deterring Baltimore County Traffic Accidents: Speed Camera Laws Go Into Effect (Oct. 2009)


Fatal Crash Totals in 2012
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute
Collected online Feb. 2014

Traffic Safety Facts 2011 (PDF)
US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

January 15, 2014

New Maryland Traffic Safety Laws Target Cell Phone and Seat Belt Use

Last fall, Maryland lawmakers added teeth to two key state traffic laws -- those governing the use of cell phones and seat belts. Baltimore County car accident lawyers are familiar with Maryland traffic safety laws, which are often broken during the course of a motor vehicle crash. Let's take a look at changes to our Maryland state cell phone and seat belt laws.

Most likely you've witnessed a scene like this: Another driver speeds past you on the Baltimore Beltway with a cell phone in one hand -- talking a mile a minute -- seemingly oblivious to the traffic around them. If you've witnessed this scene recently on any Maryland roadway, it's now a primary traffic offense.

As of October 1, 2013, Maryland's Cell Phone Use Ban (TR 21–1124.2) now treats hand-held cell phone use while driving as a primary offense. (It used to be a secondary offense, meaning police would need to stop the driver for another traffic violation to cite the hand-held cellphone use). Now, Maryland police officers may pull a driver over if they observe them talking on a hand-held cell phone, with no other traffic violation taking place. The ticket for a first offense is $83, with fines increasing for subsequent violations.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration estimates that more than 30,000 people in Maryland are injured every year due to distracted driving crashes. Texting while driving in Maryland has been illegal for some years now, so banning the use of hand-held cell phones is a natural progression in public safety law.

Maryland is one of 12 states plus Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands to make its hand-held cell phone law a primary offense. Drivers are allowed to talk using hands-free cell phone devices, such as headset and Bluetooth systems. No states ban all uses of cellphones while driving.

Buckling up the seat belts comes as second nature for smart drivers and their passengers in Maryland. Most newer cars have a warning beep that goes off if you don't buckle your seat belt. Unfortunately, there are still too many people -- including young, novice drivers and their passengers -- who fail to use their seat belts.

As of October 2013, failure to wear a seat belt in Maryland is now a primary offense for drivers and front seat passengers, and a secondary offense for back seat passengers. The newly restrictive Maryland Seat Belt Law (TR 22–412.3) comes with an $83 fine per person caught not wearing their seat belt. Drivers may receive additional fines if they are caught with passengers in the vehicle under age 16 who are not buckled up.

Maryland is one of 33 states and the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands with a primary offense seat belt law for drivers on their books.

Maryland car accident lawyers like us know that traffic safety laws, when combined with law enforcement and education, help save lives. There will still be drivers who disregard the laws, putting themselves, their passengers and other motorists at risk if an accident occurs. Tougher laws may, however, serve as a deterrent to some Maryland drivers, who would rather put down their cell phones and buckle their seat belts than face a hefty fine.

Related Maryland Car Accident Attorney articles:

More Drivers Admit to Web Surfing While Behind the Wheel (Nov. 2013)

Maryland Seeks to Add More Teeth to Distracted Driver Laws (May 2012)


Maryland's New Cell Phone and Seat Belt Laws (PDF)
Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration Oct. 2013

Maryland Highway Safety Laws
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Jan. 2014

Distracted Driving Laws
Seat Belt Laws
Governors Highway Safety Administration Jan. 2014

December 31, 2013

Maryland Construction Worker Safety : OSHA Cites "Fatal Four" Types of Accidents

The U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released statistics for work-related accidents for 2013 - 2013. As experienced Baltimore County, Maryland construction accident lawyers, we're well aware of the increased risks that come with certain occupations. OSHA's list of the "Fatal Four" types of U.S. construction accidents reflect the types of workplace injury and fatality cases our law firm has handled.

OSHA reports that for calendar year 2012 -- 3,945 worker fatalities occurred in private industry. Of those, 775 worker deaths (close to 20 percent of the total) were in the construction industry. OSHA identified these "Fatal Four" types of construction accidents accounting for the greatest number of worker deaths:

Falls (36%)
Struck by Object (10%)
Electrocutions (9%)
Caught-in/between (2%)

OSHA estimates that 435 U.S. workers' lives could be saved each year if construction workplaces could eliminate these fatal four types of accidents. This is why employer compliance to industry safety regulations is so critical -- here in Maryland and around the country.

Industry safety regulations are only as good as the construction company's success at putting them in place, educating workers, and enforcing them. OSHA is a small federal agency with about 2,200 inspectors responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers, employed at more than 8 million worksites across the U.S. This means one compliance officer for every 59,000 workers. So the onus is on the owners and managers of Maryland construction companies to make sure their workplaces meet federal safety requirements.

The top five OSHA standards violations in the US for FY2013 were…

Fall protection, construction
Hazard communication standard, general industry
Scaffolding, general requirements, construction
Respiratory protection, general industry
Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment, general industry

Industry regulations -- coupled with employer compliance and worker education -- save lives. Worker deaths in the US are down from 38 a day in 1970 to 12 a day in 2012. But we can do better. Those statistics represent 12 hard-working people who said goodbye to their families as they went off to work -- and never made it home again.

Baltimore Workers Compensation attorneys like us work with families and individuals when a workplace accident or death occurs. Prevention goes a long way toward reducing the number of worker injuries and fatalities, here in Maryland and around the country. Have a safe New Year.

Related Maryland Workers' Compensation Lawyer articles:

Maryland Work Safety : Falls the Leading Cause of Construction Accident Deaths (May 2013)

Maryland Workers Rights : Family and Medical Leave Act Turns 20, But Sick Employees Still Fighting an Uphill Battle (March 2013)


OSHA Statistics

November 15, 2013

More Drivers Admit to Web Surfing While Behind the Wheel

As if texting while driving (illegal in Maryland) weren't dangerous enough, more drivers admit to using the Internet while behind the wheel. We see the tragic results of distracted driving when car accident victims come to our Baltimore personal injury law firm for help. We have never heard one good reason for anyone being on a cell phone while driving that was important enough to warrant taking one's hands off the wheel and eyes off the road.

State Farm reports that "webbing while driving" is on the rise, with 24 percent of US drivers surveyed admitting to the practice. This refers to drivers using their smart phones to surf the Internet -- when their eyes should be on the road. The top reasons drivers go online while driving are to (1) find directions, (2) read email, (3) obtain information "of immediate interest," (4) engage on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and (5) compose / send email.

Distracted driving has become an increasing threat on our Maryland roadways and around the country, leading to serious and deadly motor vehicle crashes. Public safety advocates now believe distracted driving can be as deadly as drunk driving. The CDC estimates more than 16 people are killed and 1,300 people are injured in crashes involving distracted driving every day.

Unfortunately, the tech devices designed to make our lives easier have in fact added new hazards to driving. Once cell phones became affordable to practically everyone, our culture changed. Now people expect to be in touch with each other immediately and constantly -- including while driving -- even for trivial reasons. Texting made the problem on our roads and highways worse, as drivers have their heads down as they compose and send text messages. Maryland is one of 41 states that have made texting illegal as a primary offense.

The relative affordability and ubiquitousness of so-called "smart phones" has added another element of risk to the driving public. Now movie times and restaurant reviews are just a few taps of the screen away. The problem is it only takes an instant of distraction for a driver to cause a serious or fatal car or truck accident. The State Farm survey found that that webbing while driving has steadily increased over the past 5 years.

USA Today reports that since 2009, the incidence of going on the Internet while driving has doubled among drivers ages 18 to 29 -- increasing from 29 to 49 percent of drivers surveyed. That's nearly HALF of all young drivers surveyed. But the problem can't be blamed on younger drivers exclusively. State Farm also found that half of all drivers ages 30 to 39 surveyed admitted to using the Internet while they were driving.

The Atlantic Wire reports that an estimated one in four drivers are doing something behind the wheel with an electronic device -- something that is taking their eyes and minds off the road. If that doesn't give you pause to slow down and drive defensively in Maryland, nothing will.

Related Baltimore Car Accident Injury lawyer article:

Maryland Seeks to Add More Teeth to Distracted Driver Laws (May 2012)


Webbing While Driving
State Farm Insurance 2011

Americans Can't Stay Off the Internet, Even While Driving
The Atlantic Wire Nov. 12, 2013

Distracted Driving Laws
Governors Highway Safety Administration Nov. 2013