Distracted driving is a factor in 1 out of 4 crashes nationwide and cell phone use and texting are leading causes of distracted driving. According to the MVA’s Maryland Highway Safety Office (MHSO), more than 28,000 people are injured annually on Maryland’s roads as a result of distracted driving.
Maryland’s statewide program supports the national distracted driving campaign and includes a combination of targeted advertising and high-visibility enforcement in an effort to change behavior and save lives. Law enforcement will be aggressively enforcing Maryland’s handheld cell phone and texting laws during Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Distracted driving is any activity that diverts a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger and bystander safety. Because text messaging requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far one of the most alarming distractions.
“Texting or using your phone while driving is extremely dangerous. It creates a crash risk up to 23 times higher and puts people’s lives in jeopardy. Law enforcement officers are out stopping and ticketing people that are breaking our handheld cell phone laws. If you have a phone in one hand, you’ll have a ticket in the other”, said Southern Maryland Law Enforcement Officials.
Violating Maryland’s distracted driving laws can be costly. Drivers can be ticketed for writing, sending or reading a text or electronic message while driving. The fine is $70 and 1 point on your license and may increase to $110 and 3 points if use of the device contributes to a crash. Fines for using a handheld cell phone are $83 for the first offense, $140 for the second offense and $160 for the third offense. In addition, any driver that causes serious injury or death while talking on a handheld cell phone or texting may receive a prison sentence of up to 3 years and a fine of up to $5,000. Drivers are on their provisional license face event tougher penalties as any violation of these laws may result in a suspension of driving privileges.
George Clark, Transportation Manager for the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland offered this advice to drivers: “Drive responsibly – park the phone before you drive. Keep yourself and your passengers safe by keeping your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road at all times. Driving is not the time to talk or text on a cell phone”.
For more information, visit www.towardzerodeathsmd.com