The Towson attorneys at Azrael, Franz, Schwab and Lipowitz explain the new distracted driving rules under Jake’s Law that takes full effect this coming fall.

Over the past few years our firm has seen a considerable increase in rear-end crashes. The facts of these cases make it clear that texting or talking on the phone is the reason for this significant danger to all of those who share the road with those who insist on playing with their phone as they drive.

On April 14, 2014, Governor Martin O’Malley signed a new law that intensifies penalties for drivers who cause serious accidents due to text messaging or other use of handheld devices.

The new law, coined “Jake’s Law,” comes as a direct response to a fatal distracted driving car accident that claimed the life of a young boy.

In December 2011, five-year-old Jake Owen was sitting in the back seat when an SUV going 62 miles per hour slammed into his parents’ sedan. Jake was killed on impact. After the trial in the fall of 2013, the SUV driver was fined a mere $1,000. The 23-year-old hadn’t even pressed the brakes.

Jake’s Law states that offenders will face up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine if found guilty of significantly contributing to a serious car crash. An earlier version of this legislation called for up to three years in jail.

Police will need “reasonable grounds” to suspect that the driver was using their phone or device at the time of the crash. Suspected drivers will have to provide police with information on their cell phones including phone number, cell phone carrier, text message and call history immediately.

The new law will become effective on October 1, 2014. Illinois and Utah have adopted similar procedures in dealing with distraction-caused crashes.

A recent poll by OpinionWorks stated that 28 percent of Maryland drivers have texted while driving within the past six months. That is equivalent to 1.1 million distracted drivers in Maryland alone. The same poll showed that 75 percent of those surveyed supported Jake’s Law.

If you or someone you know has been involved in an automobile crash caused by distracted driving, please consider contacting the victims’ rights attorneys at Azrael, Franz, Schwab and Lipowitz.