By George Solis

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Distracted driving dangers. New research shows the problem isn’t just dangerous but deadly. It’s also now the number one concern for Maryland drivers.

George Solis explains what’s been done to combat this growing threat.

Distracted driving beat out other dangerous habits like drunk, drugged and even aggressive driving. Perhaps even more shocking—the number of drivers who admit to doing it.

It’s a dangerous driving habit that’s proving to be among the most deadly in the state; 42% of all fatalities on the road are due to distracted drivers, on average.

Maryland drivers are taking note, now ranking distracted driving as their biggest fear on the road—an act that goes beyond just texting and driving.

“Distracted driving is anything that takes your eyes off the road,” said Christine Delise, AAA.

According to AAA, crashes happen every six seconds in the state. Their numbers show in five years, nearly half of the more than 500 deaths on the road each year in the state were caused by distracted driving—well above the figures for drunk driving.

“I think people believe that they are personally immune to them but of course we know that isn’t the case,” said Russell Hurd.

Eight years ago, Maryland native Heather Hurd was killed by a suspected distracted driver in Florida. Friday, her father opened up to WJZ about the growing concern.

“The answer is really when you’re in the car, just drive the car. It’s a demanding task as it is,” he said.

Her family not only passed a law in her name to fight the growing epidemic, they continue to advocate to keep convincing drivers to keep their eyes on the road. Despite being illegal, research shows plenty of drivers are still talking and texting while driving.

Even with a lot of hands-free technology found in most modern cars, AAA says if you’re not paying attention to the road, it’s still a distraction—a distraction that can change lives in an instant.

“If everyone got in the car every single day and remembered that somebody is waiting for them when they get home…somebody loves them. Put the phone down,” said Hurd.

April is Distracted Driving Month, a campaign focused on making sure drivers focus on the road.

State lawmakers are pushing for larger punishments for those caught driving distracted.

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