Posted On: February 28, 2011

Maryland Vehicular Homicide Bill : Drivers Who Cause Fatal Auto Accidents Should Get Tougher Penalties, Grieving Families Say

If it were up to those in Maryland who have lost loved ones in fatal automobile accidents, the laws punishing offending drivers would be a lot tougher. There is, in fact, a Md. bill in the House that would stiffen penalties against some drivers involved in deadly motor vehicle accidents -- but that bill has yet to pass into law.

The Baltimore Sun reports that last week, grieving family members and friends made their case before the Maryland House Judiciary Committee about passing "House Bill 363: Manslaughter by Vehicle or Vessel -- Criminal Negligence." Area bicycle, pedestrian, and other safety advocates believe "a law is needed to bridge the gap between a simple speeding ticket and felony vehicular manslaughter." Some think Maryland's laws are too lenient on drivers who cause fatal car accidents on our roads, city streets, and highways, with some getting off with fines.

An experienced Baltimore County car accident attorney is familiar with these Maryland driving laws and penalties. Families may turn to Md. injury lawyers to file a civil suit against the driver responsible for their loved one's injury, disability, or death -- if they're unsatisfied with the verdict in Maryland criminal court, or if the case didn't involve criminal charges.

The current problem with Maryland law, The Baltimore Sun reports, is that prosecutors must prove "wanton and willful disregard for human life" for more serious criminal charges against a driver to stick. Those factors are hard to prove in car accident cases unless blatantly reckless or aggressive driving was to blame -- deadly behaviors such as driving drunk or driving under the influence of drugs, exhibiting road rage, or drag racing (e.g., illegal street racing). If the bill with enhanced charges passes, those drivers proven to be true terrors on the road would face stiffer penalties, including possible jail time.

Accidents do happen on Baltimore County roads and highways. Some are due to weather, vehicle malfunction, sudden distractions, obstacles in the road, and other unforeseen circumstances. (Pedestrian accidents involving motor vehicles also occur for a variety of reasons, some resulting in injury or death.) As The Sun puts it, the current law is looking to punish bad behavior -- not bad luck. If passed, HB 363 will create a misdemeanor for causing the death of another while operating a vehicle in a criminally negligent manner.


Bill to punish fatally bad driving should pass with care
The Baltimore Sun Feb 27, 2011

Support Maryland HB 363: Manslaughter by Vehicle or Vessel–Criminal Negligence
Washington Area Bicyclist Association Feb. 22, 2011

Text of Maryland House Bill 363:
Manslaughter by Vehicle or Vessel -- Criminal Negligence:

Text of Maryland House Bill 363 (PDF)

Text of Maryland House Bill 363
(Google docs)

Posted On: February 24, 2011

Maryland Toyota Driver Safety Alerts: Gas Pedal Recall Extended to Additional Vehicles

Earlier this month, we reported on how NHTSA officials working with NASA engineers concluded that the problem with "runaway Toyotas" (i.e., cars accelerating out of control) was mechanical, not electrical. The problem that resulted in numerous traffic accident fatalities was, the report stated, caused by mechanical issues with the gas pedals due to faulty design or ill-fitting carpets and floor mats. The problem was not, the report's authors concluded, electrical in nature, as some Toyota owners and auto critics theorized.

The sticky gas pedals are back in the news, however.

Toyota is now recalling an additional 2.17 million vehicles to repair problems linked to their Nov. 2009 safety recall for gas pedal problems due to "floor mat entrapment." Over the last few years, several cases of Toyota drivers unable to slow down their cars resulted in a number of fatal car crashes. The New York Times reports that Toyota is adding Lexus luxury vehicles and popular SUVs to the gas pedal recall list, including the Toyota Highlander and Toyota 4Runner (see link to Toyota recall portal below for full listing of recall vehicle models and years).

A Baltimore car accident injury lawyer works with families when an automobile accident in Maryland causes injury or death -- and questions surrounding liability or negligence remain. Proving manufacturer liability is a complicated business, so it's best to always consult an experienced injury attorney with questions surrounding the cause of a serious motor vehicle accident in Md.

Putting Pedal to the Metal: Advice for Baltimore County, Maryland Drivers
Whether you drive a Toyota or not, all Maryland drivers should check to see how their own floor mats fit. It's common for people to buy off-the-counter rubber floor mats for use during messy Maryland winters, to protect the car's original floor mats and carpets. Aftermarket floor mats tossed into any vehicle -- if slipping and sliding around -- could interfere with the proper function of gas pedals and brakes. It's a good idea for everyone to make sure their floor mats don't pose a potential driving hazard.

Since 2009, Toyota has recalled more than 14 million vehicles from around the world, mostly for the floor-mat issue or gas pedal design defects. Toyota continues to repair its tarnished reputation, while rattled consumers try to regain trust in a company once known as the gold standard for quality and dependability.

Toyota to Recall Over 2 Million Vehicles for Gas Pedal Flaws
The New York Times Feb. 24, 2011

Toyota Recall Portal

Related Maryland Injury Attorney blog article:

News for Maryland Toyota Drivers on Vehicle Safety Recalls : DOT Says Car Accidents Due to Mechanical, Not Electrical Problems
Feb. 9, 2011

Posted On: February 17, 2011

Baltimore County Democrat Pushing Maryland Bill to Toughen Distracted Driving Law

Distracted driving is a serious hazard on Baltimore County roads and highways -- particularly when cell phones are involved. A few years ago, talking on cell phones while driving was the primary culprit. Now the widespread availability of text and data enabled smartphones means drivers not only talk on their phones behind the wheel, but send, receive, and read text messages. You know the tell-tale signs when you see them: driver's head is down, cell phone is in their hands, thumbs are typing away -- and their attention is not on the road. Cell phone use while driving causes deadly motor vehicle accidents in Maryland and everywhere else in the country.

The National Safety Council reports 1.6 million auto crashes a year in the US caused by talking and texting on cell phones. And the Maryland State Highway Administration estimates that more than 380 people have died in Maryland due to distracted driving auto crashes in the last 5 years. Now a Baltimore County lawmaker wants to add teeth to the Maryland law that restricts cell phone usage while driving.

Delegate James Malone, a democrat from Baltimore County, Md., is sponsoring legislation that would give Maryland police more clout in enforcing Maryland's cell phone use while driving ban, which is currently a secondary offense. Malone would like to see the ban become a primary offense, which would give Maryland police the right to pull drivers over if they're observed using their handheld cell phones while driving. Currently in Maryland, the police can only issue a cell phone use citation if the driver is pulled over for a separate violation.

A Baltimore county accident injury attorney works with families when someone has died or been injured in a car accident due to distracted driving or other negligence or recklessness on the part of another Maryland motorist. Mr. Malone believes that many Md. drivers continue to talk on their handheld cellphones, knowing the police can't pull them over solely for that reason.

Maryland is among the states that have taken the problem of car and truck accidents caused by cell phone use very seriously. In fact, as of Oct. 2010, Maryland become one of eight states to ban handheld cell phone use while driving, subjecting drivers to fines. Using a hands-free cell phone while driving is allowed in Md.


Md. Bill to Tighten Cell Phone Use While Driving
Maryland bill would make talking on handheld cell phone while driving a primary offense Feb. 16, 2011

Related Maryland Injury Attorney blog article:

Maryland Traffic Safety: DOT Study Shows U.S. Distracted Driving Accident Deaths Not Going Down

Related Web Resources:

Maryland State Highway Administration

National Safety Council

Posted On: February 9, 2011

News for Maryland Toyota Drivers on Vehicle Safety Recalls : DOT Says Car Accidents Due to Mechanical, Not Electrical Problems

Last year, Toyota drivers in Baltimore County, Maryland and around the country had reason to be concerned. The auto manufacturer that built its reputation on safety and reliability was involved in one of the most massive worldwide consumer safety recalls in history of some 8 million vehicles.

The safety recalls occurred after reports of fatal auto accidents involving "runaway Toyotas" -- that is, cars that couldn't be stopped from accelerating out of control. Drivers reported sticking gas pedals that were slow to rise when foot pressure was removed, and cars that failed to decelerate despite the drivers releasing the gas and leaning hard on the brakes.

The car accidents that prompted the recalls and a subsequent government investigation occurred over a number of years, involving different models of Toyotas. Now U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has released a report on the investigation regarding Toyota's problems.

The DOT's investigation, conducted by NASA scientists, revealed that the deadly Toyota car accidents were due to floor mats entrapping the gas pedals and "sticky gas pedals" -- mechanical problems but not electrical problems, as some consumers thought. They also believe operator error may have played a part in some cases where cars were reported to have malfunctioned.

Baltimore County wrongful death attorneys may work with families who lose a loved one in a Maryland car accident. Experienced MD injury lawyers know the laws that relate to liability and negligence, whether on the part of auto manufacturers and/or other drivers.

In the wake of the Toyota recalls, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is calling for a new industry standard that would create a brake override system. NHTSA also wants faulty gas and brake pedal designs to be fixed, as well as reliability and security of electronic control systems to be studied further.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney Blog Article:

Maryland Driving Woes: Toyota and Honda Recalls Cause Anxiety and Anger (on Top of the Blasted Snow) Feb. 11, 2010


US DOT Feb. 8, 2011

Toyota Recalls Due to Mechanical Flaws
The Street Feb. 8, 2011

Transportation Secretary: Electronic Issue Not Cause of Toyota Recall Woes Feb. 8, 2011