Texting and driving are all too common today. The convenience of cell phones has, for many drivers, outweighed the risk of getting into an accident. Unfortunately, for every driver who safely manages to text and drive, there’s another whose distraction results in a dangerous accident.
Why do people text and drive knowing that their behavior could put themselves and others in harm’s way? In many cases, these drivers don’t know the full extent of the legal consequences they can face if their distraction results in an accident. Fortunately, education can help at-risk drivers put down their phones when behind the wheel.
Breaking the Habit of Texting and Driving
Cell phone use is a part of life in this day and age. In many cases, today’s population shows evidence of getting anxious when they don’t have regular access to their phones. Cogent Psychology released findings in 2020 indicating that limited cell phone access increases college students’ anxiety and that those same students cultivated pervasive cell phone use habits.
All this is to say that regularly checking your cell phone has become part of your daily routine. In this vein, it makes sense that some drivers may feel anxious if they can’t check their phones while behind the wheel. That anxiety may drive drivers to engage in reckless texting and driving, even if they know that it’s dangerous.
Drivers Can Face Other Distractions Even When Not Texting at the Wheel
Your cell phone isn’t the only distraction that you have to contend with while behind the wheel. Other forms of distraction that can readily lead to a roadway crash can include:
- Drinking non-alcoholic beverages
- Chatting with friends
- Fiddling with the radio or a more advanced entertainment system
- Checking the GPS
If you get into an accident with another driver, any of these forces may be to blame for your losses. You can work with a car accident attorney to assess your circumstances and determine your right to legal action under the umbrella of distracted driving.
Maryland’s Distracted Driving Policies
Maryland has specific legislation in place designed to curb drivers’ distractions behind the wheel. Md. Code Transportation § 21–1124.1 states that drivers may not use any devices that allow them to communicate by text message while driving, even if those devices are hands-free.
Drivers under 18 are further barred from using hands-free or handheld devices to call other parties while behind the wheel. Adult drivers, comparatively, may use hands-free devices to make calls. The only exceptions to these rules allow drivers of all ages to contact emergency services.
The use of a cell phone or other handheld communication devices behind the wheel can see drivers of all ages face fines and, in some cases, criminal traffic charges. Md. Code Transportation § 21-1124.2 outlines these consequences in more detail.
Taking Action After a Distracted Driving Accident
Distracted driving accident victims have the right to take legal action against the parties responsible for their losses in civil court. You can work with a personal injury attorney to file a civil claim against the person responsible for your losses. That claim can subsequently demand that the liable party provide you with the financial support you need to recover.
However, if you want to file a distracted driving accident claim in civil court, be prepared to defend every claim you make with quantifiable evidence. This means that you need to have the means to defend assertions of fault as well as an estimate of your case’s value.
You must also bring your complaint forward within Maryland’s personal injury statute of limitations. Maryland Courts & Judicial Proceedings Code § 5-101 gives you no more than three years to gather your relevant evidence and bring your complaint forward. You cannot file for damages outside of this deadline.
Criminal Distracted Driving Cases Can Benefit Your Civil Pursuits
If a distracted driver causes an accident that results in someone’s severe injury or death, that driver may face criminal consequences for their negligence. If the distracted driver goes before a criminal judge, keep an ear out for developments in that case.
Criminal convictions can positively contribute to your pursuit of compensation in civil court. In fact, a criminal conviction can constitute proof of negligence when brought into account in a civil case. If the distracted driver who caused your accident faces a criminal conviction, you can discuss presenting that conviction as evidence in court with your personal injury lawyer.
How You Can Prevent Texting While Driving
No matter how hard you try, you can’t control how other people behave on the road. To prevent a distracted driving accident, you can remain diligent and put your cell phone away when behind the wheel. Keep your eyes on the road and take into account that other drivers may be dealing with their own distractions.
That said, if you want to discourage friends or loved ones from texting while driving, you can. You can, for example, institute a rule where the driver places their phone in their glove box while at the wheel. You can alternatively agree to read off the driver’s messages for them. You could even work to eliminate the other forms of distraction mentioned above.
At the end of the day, accidents are referred to as “accidents” for a reason. You can’t always prevent an accident from happening. When you’re careful, though, you can protect yourself and the people you care about from the consequences of distraction behind the wheel.
Talk to Our Attorneys About Your Distracted Driving Accident
Texting and driving constitutes a traffic violation in most, if not all, states in the United States. If someone’s texting and driving results in an accident, that negligence can transform into a criminal charge. You, in the meanwhile, may have the right to pursue civil action against the offender, provided you can submit proof of negligence to a civil judge.
If you have questions about your right to action after a texting and driving accident, you can work with MDSW’s personal injury lawyers. We’re available to discuss your circumstances over the phone or through our online contact form. Contact our team today to discuss how you can secure the financial support you need to recover from a recent accident.