Belsky Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC A Personal Injury & Workers’ Compensation Law Firm

Should penalties for dangerous driving behavior be stronger?

After compiling highway accident figures from 2016, the National Safety Council found that traffic deaths increased 6 percent over 2015. The Council also conducted a survey about driving behaviors that revealed some unsettling results.

The NSC report shows that drivers are becoming increasingly complacent about drinking and driving as well as cellphone use while behind the wheel, despite knowing they are taking risks -- with their own lives and others'.

Cause and effect

There were 40,200 roadway fatalities across the nation in 2016, the first time the number of deaths had exceeded 40,000 since 2007. The report released by the NSC, a safety advocacy group, provides an indication of the causes of tragic accidents:

  • 47 percent—almost half—of those surveyed are comfortable with the activity of texting while driving.
  • 10 percent of the participants admitted to driving drunk, and 43 percent of those had been in a car crash while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • 16 percent of participants said they do not always wear seat belts while driving.
  • 25 percent admit to speeding on residential streets.

Stricter laws and penalties recommended

The NSC sees a link between serious highway crashes and the complacency exhibited by many motorists, those who feel they can drive after having a few drinks, and those who allow distractions like texting and emailing to occur. None of this needs to happen.

The NSC is calling for a total ban on cellphone use by drivers, including systems that are hands-free. (Fifteen states already have such bans, including Maryland, where it is a primary offense, meaning law enforcement can stop and ticket drivers solely for using a phone while driving.)

The National Safety Council also believes that (a) ignition interlock devices should be mandatory for all first-time offenders convicted of DUI, as it is in Maryland, and that (b) acquiring a driver's license should be tougher in the first place for new drivers under the age of 21.

The consequences

Car crash injuries, from broken bones to head trauma, can be both life-altering and extremely expensive. All you can do is try to be a responsible driver and hope that the motorists who share the road are equally responsible and understand the consequences of taking risks.

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