Jill Kolodner | September 3, 2020 | Maryland Law
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving resulted in 2,841 deaths in 2018, and the national numbers have climbed since then. Unfortunately, distracted driving is a huge problem in the state of Maryland, as well. So, the state has gone to great lengths to combat distracted driving practices – particularly those that involve a cell phone.
In Maryland, it is illegal for all drivers to use a handheld phone for conversations while driving. Hands-free calls are allowed, as long as the driver is over the age of 18 and holds an unrestricted license. Those with a learner’s or provisional permit are not allowed to use a cell phone, whether it is hands-free or not. Those caught using a cell phone can face fines, and having their license revoked.
Holding your phone is a primary offense, giving police officers the right to pull over an individual spotted holding their phones while driving. The only exception to the law is using your phone to call 911 for help in an emergency.
Penalties for Cell Phone Usage While Driving
Each year, distracted driving causes more than 28,000 injuries on Maryland’s roads. Driving while using your cell phone puts you and those around you at risk. Using your phone while driving can result in a ticket or fine. If you are using a cell phone and are involved in a car accident, the penalties can become much stiffer.
If your cell phone or texting is the cause of a crash, you can expect a $110 fine and three points added to your license. You can also be subjected to a reckless driving citation.
“Jake’s Law” went into effect in 2014. The law was named after an 11-year-old was killed in an accident caused by a distracted driver. Due to the laws at the time, the driver responsible for the accident only had to pay a $500 fine.
As a result of Jake’s Law, named after the young victim, the potential consequences of cell phone usage while driving increase dramatically if someone is hurt or killed in a crash resulting from the use of a cell phone.
It is possible to receive a fine of up to $5,000 and could face up to three years in jail. There are some circumstances, such as repeated offenses that eventually result in an accident causing a death, that could end in you being charged with vehicular homicide.
Texting While Driving
Even reading a text takes your eyes off the road for far longer than it is safe. Reading, writing, or sending a text while driving is illegal in Maryland. Texting while driving is a misdemeanor that can include:
- $70 fine in addition to court costs
- 1 point added to your license for the first offense
- A license suspension if you are under the age of 18
Texting while driving, if it results in an accident, can result in the same harsh penalties as other types of cell phone usage.
How Maryland Defines Distracted Driving
Maryland’s distracted driving laws define distraction as any activity diverting a driver’s attention away from the task of driving. While distractions can be anything that happens in the vehicle, cell phones play a primary role in the number of deaths and injuries caused by distracted driving each year.
Even when using a hands-free device, it is far too easy to become distracted by the conversation with the person on the other end of the phone, or technical issues with the phone, resulting in an accident. Distractions can be caused by the radio, other passengers in the car, GPS, or any number of variables, and the driver can be held liable for distracted driving whether a cell phone is involved or not.
Texting While Driving Surpasses Drinking and Driving as Cause of Death for Teens
Researchers at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center estimate that approximately three-thousand teen deaths and over three-hundred thousand injuries are a result of texting while driving. An estimated two-thousand and seven hundred teens die in drunk driving accidents each year, making texting and driving more lethal than drunk driving for our nation’s youth.
Education about the dangers of texting and driving, aimed at both adults and teens, is getting the message across, but it is not having the desired effect on behavior. Despite admitting to understanding the dangers, over half of adults, and close to eighty-percent of teen drivers say that they read or send texts while driving.
Stiff penalties are one way that lawmakers are hoping to reduce the number of accidents that result from the use of cell phones while driving. Remind your teen that they could lose their license, or worse, if caught using their cell phones in the car. Model what you teach by leaving your cell phone tucked away when you drive. Children learn much more from watching what the adults in their lives do than by any lecture you might give.
If you have been involved in an accident with a distracted driver, know your rights to compensation. Contact a Maryland personal injury attorney experienced in distracted driving accidents.