Each year, too many bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists die on the roadways of Maryland. Part of the problem is aggressive drivers who speed, tailgate, drive on the wrong side of a double-yellow line or drive on the shoulder--and never yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. If they kill someone in most states or the District of Columbia, a jail sentence is likely. But not in Maryland.
A drunk driver who kills someone in Maryland may be convicted of manslaughter if they are drunk. But otherwise, to convict someone of vehicular manslaughter requires proving that the driver knew that he or she might kill someone. And that is almost always impossible to prove.
A driver in Takoma Park swerved off the road and hit a 12-year old girl walking home from school on the sidewalk along Piney Branch Road. He then made a U-turn and drove off, and the girl died. The jury convicted him of manslaughter. But the appeals court overturned the conviction because under Maryland law, this evidence does not prove that the driver was reckless.
A driver in St. Mary’s county decided not to clear her windshield of frost, other than a small viewing hole. As a result, she could not see anything on the right side of the lane. While fiddling with some items on her lap, she struck and killed a father riding his bicycle on the right side of the road. Because she did not see the cyclist, she could not be convicted of manslaughter for killing him, and was fined $500.
In most states, drivers who kill can be charged with negligent homicide, if their driving is a flagrant violation of the duty to drive carefully—even if there is no proof that the driver realized they might kill someone. The loophole in Maryland is that there is no such crime.
But this year, the House of Delegates passed House Bill 363 which would create the crime of negligent vehicular homicide in Maryland. If the Senate passes the bill as well, Maryland will join most of the other states in the nation by closing the loophole. But the key committee deciding the fate of this bill killed it last year—and they may do it again this year, unless these Senators hear from their constituents.
Time is dwindling in the legislative session, and at this late stage, phone calls are the most effective means of communicating the importance of this bill.
There are three key senators on the committee who need to hear from their constituents that this is a priority. If you live within the District of one of these senators, please make a call, stating your support for HB 363-Criminally Negligent Homicide by Vehicle. To find your Maryland Senatorial District, click HERE.
Senator Lisa A. Gladden (District 41): (410) 841-3697
Senator Robert A. (Bobby) Zirkin (District 11): (410) 841-3131
Senator James Brochin (District 42): (410) 841-3648
*** Note these Senators are already supportive the ASK is to make this Bill a priority and to keep it as passed and amended by the House.
If you are unable to call or do not live within one of these Districts, CLICK HERE to send an email to your state senator expressing your support for HB 363.