If you think you can’t get a ticket for talking on the phone while behind the wheel, think again. As of October 1, police across Maryland can now pull over a driver simply for talking on a handheld cell phone. Proponents of the stricter law hope that this new measure will cut down on the number of distracted driving accidents in Maryland.
It was already illegal for drivers to use handheld cell phones, but police could only enforce the 2010 law if they had already stopped a person for another traffic offense. This latest measure makes handheld cell phone use a primary offense, giving police more authority to enforce the law. Anyone caught with a phone to their ear may be stopped and fined $75 for a first offense, and $125 for a second offense. If cell phone use contributes to an accident, three points will be added to the person’s driving record.
According to statistics from the Maryland Highway Safety Office, more than 3,000 people died in 2010 in Maryland auto accidents where distracted driving was a factor. Nearly 20 percent of all crash-related injuries that year were attributed to distracted driving, with teens being the biggest offenders. Distracted driving in general and cell phone use in particular is quickly becoming one of the top causes of Maryland car crashes.
A stricter seat belt law went into effect October 1, too. Now, every person in every seat must be buckled, including adults in the back seat. This means there must also be enough seat belts (or child restraints) for every person in the vehicle. The law is considered a secondary offense, so police may only enforce it if they’ve already stopped the driver for another offense. Still, proponents hope the law will cut down on the number of teen fatalities in Maryland auto accidents.
We would like to remind drivers across Maryland to keep their eyes and minds on the road.