Posted On: May 30, 2012

Maryland Seeks to Add More Teeth to Distracted Driver Laws

While the invention of Internet enabled smartphones has brought a world of information and communication to our fingertips, it's also created a serious traffic safety challenge -- both here in Maryland and across the U.S.

Your grandparents never could have imagined that one day people would be typing messages to and from each other on small hand-held devices -- while driving an automobile. However we're living in an age of instant, wireless communications, and there's no going back. This poses a never-before seen problem to traffic safety advocates and lawmakers. How do we get drivers to stop talking and texting, put down their cell phones, and FOCUS on the road?

Some high profile cases in the national news this week have shone a harsh light on texting while driving. These include the first homicide texting while driving case on trial in Massachusetts, and a New Jersey case where lawyers representing two motorcyclists who lost limbs in an auto crash sought to name the sender of text messages in a distracted driving lawsuit (a judge determined the text-sending girlfriend of the motor vehicle driver charged in this case cannot be held liable).

Baltimore County car accident injury lawyers know firsthand from work with clients how devastating a serious traffic crash can be. Sadly, some drivers think "this can never happen to me" and put their cell phone calls and text messages ahead of their own safety, and that of other motorists and pedestrians around them. Let's take a few moments to review the related distracted driving laws here in Maryland.

  • As of October 2011, Maryland bans ALL texting while driving. Maryland lawmakers closed a loophole late last year that had allowed drivers to engage in texting at stop lights -- which anyone who's tried to navigate Baltimore City streets knows is a really bad idea.
  • Use of handheld cellphones while driving is banned in Maryland, however law enforcers may only cite drivers for this as a secondary offense. Three pieces of state legislation seek to make use of handheld cellphones while driving a primary offense in Maryland (see links below).
  • Novice drivers under age 18 with their learners' permits or intermediate licenses are prohibited from using cell phones.

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reports that as of May 2012,

"…10 states, D.C., Guam and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. Except for Maryland and West Virginia (until July 2013), all laws are primary enforcement—an officer may cite a driver for using a handheld cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place."

Two other pending pieces of Maryland legislation seek to separate the definitions of cell phones and texting devices in regards to distracted driver laws (HB 55 and SB 529). Here's hoping our Maryland lawmakers can help our state become safer for all motorists this year.

Related Maryland Accident Injury Attorney articles:

Why Distracted Driving in Maryland Can Be as Deadly as Drunk Driving (April 17, 2012)

U.S. Highway Safety Group Green Lights Maryland Traffic Laws, While Noting Areas that Need Improvement (Jan. 18, 2012)

Sources:

Governors Highway Safety Association: Cell Phone and Texting Laws May 2012
GHSA.org May 2012

Maryland Completely Bans Text Messaging While Driving
ABC 7, News Channel 8 Sept. 30, 2011

Related Maryland Traffic Safety Legislation:

House Bill 104: Motor Vehicles - Use of Wireless Communication Device - Prohibited Acts, Enforcement, and Penalties

House Bill 123: Vehicle Laws - Wireless Communication Devices - Enforcement of Prohibitions on Use While Driving

Senate Bill 217: Motor Vehicles - Use of Wireless Communication Device - Prohibited Acts, Enforcement, and Penalties

Posted On: May 15, 2012

Preventing Maryland Construction Work Falls and Fatalities : OSHA Launches Fall Prevention Campaign

Falls are the leading causes of accidental death in the construction industry. According to OSHA (the United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration), of the total 774 construction accident fatalities in 2010 -- 264 were fall related fatalities (and of those, 255 falls were to a lower level).

Common types of construction worker slip and fall accidents include falls from ladders, roofs, scaffolds, and other elevations, as well as being struck by construction equipment or building materials, resulting in a fall. Falls may also occur when safety equipment such as harnesses or other means of personal fall protection malfunction or fail. Another cause of serious and fatal construction accidents is falling through openings in the floor.

In hopes of preventing injuries and saving lives, OSHA has partnered with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) - Construction Sector on a nationwide outreach campaign. The groups aim to raise awareness among employers and workers about common fall hazards in construction, and how falls from ladders, scaffolds and roofs can be prevented.

Maryland construction accident injury lawyers represent individuals who are hurt on the job, as well as families of those loved ones killed in construction work accidents. The basic themes of the agencies' fall prevention awareness campaign involve three steps: Plan (ahead to get the job done safely), Provide (the right equipment), and Train (workers to use the equipment safely).

An interactive map published by NORA reveals the locations and details of construction worker deaths across the U.S. in 2011, including fatalities due to falls that occurred on the job. The map lists two cases where construction workers were killed in falls while working on job sites in Maryland last year:

  • A bridge mechanic in Havre De Grace (Harford County, Md.) was working on the tracks on a Susquehanna railroad bridge when he fell 90 feet to his death in September.

  • Another deadly construction fall occurred in Millington (unclear if in Kent or Queen Anne's County, Md.) in June (no further details).

According to NORA, the purpose of the interactive map is to display the numbers and locations of construction related deaths in the U.S., due to falls and other causes. NORA reports that more than 200 construction workers are killed and over 10,000 are seriously injured by falls in the U.S. each year.

As an experienced Harford County, Maryland Workers' Compensation attorney, I can say that behind every construction accident statistic is the story of a family whose lives were changed in an instant. With the summer months upon us and construction projects in full swing, here's hoping the government's message of recommended safety measures will indeed save lives and prevent injuries from construction fall accidents -- in Maryland and around the country.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney article:

Maryland Work Injury and Death Statistics Shed Light on Most Hazardous Occupations (Jan. 10, 2012)

Sources:

NIOSH, OSHA and CPWR-The Center for Construction Research and Training Announce National Campaign to Prevent Falls (PDF)
NIOSH Press Release April 26, 2012

OSHA's Fall Prevention Campaign

Campaign to Prevent Falls in Construction (includes interactive map of U.S. construction accident deaths; drill down into the Maryland map)