Under the Influence of a Phone: Maryland Law Targets Cell Phone Users

The dangerous cost of distracted driving – specifically driving while talking on a cell phone – has just become more of a reality for motorists in Maryland beginning on October 1, 2013. The hand-held cell phone ban, which was enacted three years ago, prohibited the use of cell phones while driving, and was punishable by a fine. The catch: police could not stop drivers for illegal cell phone without another reason to pull them over. Now, in an effort to reduce serious Maryland auto accidents, cell phone use alone is enough to pull drivers over and issue a ticket.

Montgomery County police have been busy cracking down on illegal cell phone use throughout the first week of the new changes. It’s suspected that during the month of October, alone, they will match the total number of total citations issued throughout all of 2012.

Montgomery County Police Sgt. Mark White stated “Distracted driving is an overwhelming issue. I can drive up and down the road and observe people talking on their phones, fixing their hair, and I saw somebody reading a book the other day.”

Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released figures on roadway fatalities in 2011 that were attributed to distracted driving, many law enforcement officers believe the numbers to low. “It’s an under-reported crime, because it’s only the few who admit to it,” Capt. Tom Didone, head of Montgomery’s traffic division, stated.

Reported federal statistics show that 10 percent of all crashes in 2011 were attributed to distracted driving, a percentage that is more than doubled for driver age 19 or younger. It’s estimated that an average of 660,000 American are using electronic devices while driving at any given moment, putting hundreds of thousands of other motorists at risk of serious injury from a car crash. One well-known study has compared the effects of distracted driving to those of drunken driving, a danger that few American’s would argue with.

In Montgomery County, the fine for a first offense ticket is $83, $140 for a second offense, and $160 for a third.

Because the newly adapted laws specifically refer to hand-held cell phones, it is important to note- speakerphone is only hand-free if a driver is NOT holding the phone while driving. Otherwise, expect to get pulled over if a police officer sees you with your phone in front of your face!

If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Maryland caused by a driver’s cell phone use, you may be entitled to compensation from the guilty party. Call Lewis & Tompkins today to schedule your free case evaluation (202-296-0666).

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