Dec. 15, 2011
"Maria's Law" Gets National Attention
Just before midnight on February 22, 2004, 24-year-old Maria Federici was driving home from work on I-405 when a large board from a piece of furniture flew off the trailer in front of her and crashed through the windshield of her car. The board hit Maria in the face, permanently blinding her and very nearly killing her. Maria miraculously survived and became the inspiration that drove her mother, Robin Abel, to become an advocate to change our state's -- and our nation's laws.
In 2004, even though police were able to track down the driver of the truck who failed to secure the board that hit Maria, prosecutors were unable to charge him with a crime because, at the time, no laws were broken even though the conduct was clearly negligent.
Because of Abel, that has changed. Last month, President Obama signed the Transportation Appropriations Bill with a provision requiring the federal government to recommend federal action after a study of state laws related to the causes of road debris. This provision could ultimately lead to a federal law banning unsecured loads.
Abel is no stranger to changing law. In 2005, with the assistance of former King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng, she convinced Washington State lawmakers to pass "Maria's Law" -- a new law that criminalized the failure to properly secure loads. As a result, a person who causes injury or death by failing to secure a load can now be charged with a gross misdemeanor and face up to a year in jail. This legislation, among the strictest in the nation, will help hold offenders accountable, but more importantly, it will increase traffic safety by reducing road debris, which causes an average of 400 accidents per year throughout Washington state.
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