Be the FOCUSED Driver: MDOT MVA and AAA Share Important Safety Tips to Mark Distracted Driving Awareness Month
Educational messaging, statewide enforcement planned throughout April
Each year, distracted driving contributes to more than 26,000 injuries and 180 fatalities on Maryland roads. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration’s (MDOT MVA) Highway Safety Office and AAA Mid-Atlantic are working with state and local law enforcement to encourage motorists to Be the FOCUSED Driver.
“We know distracted driving is one of the main contributing factors of crashes in Maryland and it’s completely avoidable,” said MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer, who also serves as Governor Larry Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative. “It is critical that drivers give their full attention while behind the wheel to protect themselves and others on the road. The text or phone call can wait.”
While cellphone use is a leading cause of distracted driving, there are other interruptions that can be just as harmful, or even deadly, such as eating, applying makeup, changing the radio station or tending to other passengers.
“Driving is an awesome responsibility, one that requires us to remain alert to protect ourselves, our passengers and others on the road, including motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians,” MDOT Secretary Greg Slater said. “As a community, we all share the responsibility to not be a distracted driver, but to be a focused driver.”
Be the FOCUSED Driver is a sub-theme of MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office’s new overarching Be the Driver highway safety campaign, and emphasizes the dangers of distracted driving via digital and social media, streaming audio platforms and closed circuit televisions at all MDOT MVA branch offices.
Distracted driving remains a growing traffic safety problem, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s 2019 Traffic Safety Culture Index. The survey found 96% of drivers believe typing or reading on a hand-held cellphone while driving to be very or extremely dangerous – yet 39% admit to reading and 29% admit to typing on a smartphone at least once while behind the wheel within the last month.
“This research consistently reveals a telling, yet conflicting, mentality,” said Ragina C. Ali, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Public and Government Affairs Manager. “This is the behavior we want to change, through campaigns such as AAA’s Don’t Drive Intexticated campaign and partnerships with traffic safety advocates, such as those with the MDOT MVA Highway Safety Office. While changing our own behaviors, we can all play a role in saving lives on our roads and eliminating distracted driving.”
During April, more than 40 law enforcement agencies statewide will increase enforcement of distracted driving laws. Participating agencies include Maryland State Police, Maryland Natural Resources Police and Maryland Transportation Authority Police, as well as these local agencies:
- Aberdeen Police Department,
- Annapolis Police Department,
- Anne Arundel County Police Department,
- Baltimore City Police Department
- Baltimore County Police Department,
- Belair Police Department,
- Brunswick Police Department,
- Caroline County Sheriff’s Office,
- Carroll County Sheriff’s Office,
- Charles County Sheriff’s Office,
- Cumberland Police Department,
- Denton Police Department,
- Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office,
- Easton Police Department,
- Fort Detrick Police Department,
- Frederick Police Department,
- Frostburg Police Department,
- Fruitland Police Department,
- Greenbelt Police Department,
- Hagerstown Police Department,
- Hampstead Police Department,
- Hancock Police Department,
- Harford County Sheriff’s Department,
- Havre De Grace Police Department,
- Howard County Police Department,
- Laurel Police Department,
- Manchester Police Department,
- Montgomery County Police Department,
- Mt. Airy Police Department,
- Ocean City Police Department,
- Ocean Pines Police Department,
- Prince George’s Police Department,
- Princess Anne Police Department,
- Riverdale Park Police Department,
- Rockville Police Department,
- Salisbury Police Department,
- Salisbury University Police Department,
- St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office,
- Sykesville Police Department,
- Talbot County Sheriff’s Office,
- Taneytown Police Department,
- Thurmont Police Department,
- Washington County Sheriff’s Office,
- Westminster Police Department, and
- Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office.
“Enforcing distracted driving laws is a priority for Howard County police year-round, but during this month we will have specialized enforcement details that focus solely on these violations,” said Howard County Police Chief Lisa Myers. “It’s imperative that we reduce distracted driving. Not only does simply paying attention while driving reduce collisions, it saves lives.”
In Maryland, fines for using a handheld cellphone while driving are $83 for the first offense, $140 for a second offense and $160 for a third offense. Writing, sending or reading a text or electronic message while driving can result in a $70 fine and one point on the driver’s record. These penalties increase if the use of a device contributes to a crash, serious injury or death.
MDOT MVA and AAA want Marylanders to remember the following tips:
- Serve as an example for your family and friends by avoiding distractions while driving.
- Pull away from travel lanes and park in a safe location if you need to send a text message – never stop on the side of a highway.
- Designate a passenger to respond to any messages while you are behind the wheel.
- Keep our police and other emergency responders safe. MOVE OVER if safe to do so or slow down when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle using visual signals.
- Save social media for later. Do not use your phone to scroll or engage in social media while driving.
- Place your cellphone in the trunk, glove box or back seat if you are tempted to use it when driving.
- Speak up. If your friends or family use their cellphones while driving, ask them to stop.
Learn more about MDOT MVA’s Highway Safety Office’s commitment to zero deaths on Maryland roadways at ZeroDeathsMD.gov and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at zerodeathsmd.