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.

Sources:

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)