From Maryland State Police:
Governor Martin O’Malley announced Maryland reached a record low number of victims killed in traffic collisions in 2010 – 496 fatalities. The previous low was in 2009 with 550 people lost, a nine percent decrease.
“The efforts of law enforcement, educational outreach and better engineering to reduce fatalities on our roads have achieved positive results,” said Governor O’Malley. “But for those who lost loved ones in traffic crashes last year, 496 victims are still far too many. Our new law strengthening the texting while driving ban is another step toward continuing to reduce traffic deaths.”
Beginning October 1st, if you are thinking of picking up your phone and reading emails at a red light, don’t. The prohibition of texting and driving became law two years ago, but did not exclude reading texts. That loophole is now closed. Maryland’s Texting While Driving Law took effect on October 1, 2011 and prohibits all drivers in Maryland from using an electronic device to write, send, or read a text message while operating a motor vehicle in the travel lanes of the roadway. The law does not apply to texting 9-1-1 or using a global positioning system.
“We have seen dramatic declines in traffic fatalities in Maryland in recent years and we want that trend to continue,” Maryland State Police Superintendent Colonel Marcus L. Brown said. “That is why police officers across Maryland are working hard with state and local agencies to inform and educate our citizens about the dangers of texting and cell phone use while driving. We know these activities can be major distractions to drivers and can have deadly consequences.”
The texting law is a primary enforcement law and the activity is a misdemeanor crime. A first offense carries a fine of $70 and a second offense fine is $110. According to the US Department of Transportation, an estimated 800,000 vehicles nationally were driven by someone who used a hand-held cell phone during their drive last year.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that 67 percent of drivers admitted to talking on their cell phones within the last 30 days, and 21 percent of drivers indicated they had read or sent a text or e-mail message. That figure rose to 40 percent for drivers under the age of 35.
The first texting while driving law took effect October 1, 2009 and the hands-free cell phone bill became law one year later. From the time each law took effect, police officers from 76 Maryland police departments who use the State Police Electronic Traffic Information Exchange system have issued 587 warnings and 379 traffic citations for driving while texting. Police have issued 4,021 warnings and 5,227 citations for failure to use a hands-free cell phone while driving. Included in those numbers are 325 warnings and 240 citations for texting and 1,859 warnings and 2,905 traffic citations for cell phone use issued by the Maryland State Police.
Jane Gilbert says
What’s the difference between reading a text or e-mail at a stop light and checking Facebook, a sports score, weather radar, news, or any one of the other million things you can do with a smartphone these days?
The law actually includes reading/writing/sending text messages or any other electronic messages (which would include emails, facebook, internet, etc.) I’m not sure why this press release didn’t include that part of it. I also thought the fine was changed to $90 for the first offense, but I might be mixing it up with one of the other changes that just took effect.
Basically, if you’re the driver you shouldn’t be messing with your phone at all. The changes make it much easier to enforce since with the old law you practically had to subpoena cell phone records to prove someone was sending a text message while driving which is a lot of trouble to go through for a minor traffic ticket that most likely would get a PBJ unless it involved a serious crash with injuries or fatalities. Now, just having an officer see you reading something on your cell phone is probably all that’s needed to uphold a ticket in court (just like running a red light or other similar moving violations.)
Reggie, why did they include reading a text if you’re at a red light or stuck in traffic? When I worked in DC, almost 90% of my time was sitting in traffic, basically parked, and I would need to send a text to my wife to let her know what was going on or that I was going to be an extra 2 hrs late. I never used my cell phone when I drove, even before it became a law and I would either ignore my cell phone rings while driving or pull off the road & check it.
Do you think it’s a wording thing or does operating a vehicle mean the minute I sit in the driver’s seat and close my door, even if the engine is off,that I’m operating a vehicle? I have no respect for the folks I see talking on a cell phone or texting while driving. I have avoided accidents when some joker is driving through a parking lot, on the phone & comes around a corner out of nowhere because they were also driving too fast and then gives me the stinkeye. To me, the red light thing and reading/sending a text when I’m parked on 295, 95, 895, etc.,is fine, but once the vehicle begins moving and the phone action is still occurring, that’s not acceptable to me and that’s the point when the fine should be applied. I would hate to find out that my child was rushed to the hospital & in a coma while I was stuck in the middle lane of non-moving vehicles for whatever reason because I couldn’t check a text or move to the side of the road quick enough to take the call. I know that doesn’t happen all the time, but I’m sure it has happened to someone, somewhere. I’d appreciate your thoughts…
I’m assuming because if you’re busy looking at your phone you’re not paying attention to the light or what traffic is doing around you. A good example would be you’re sitting in the straight lane at a red light and glancing up frequently to make sure the light hasn’t changed. Then the left turn arrow turns green, but since you’re not really paying attention you think your light turned and green and pull forward directly into turning traffic and cause a crash. I’m sure we’ve all started to do that at one time or another even without messing with a cell phone.
The law only applies if you’re in the travel portion of the roadway or actually moving, not if you’re just sitting in your car with the engine turned off or pulled off the side of the road. I didn’t say I necessarily agree with it, but that’s what the law is now. Don’t worry, it’s still legal to read the paper, shave, do your makeup, eat spaghetti (seriously…I actually saw someone doing this on I-95 one time), etc while driving (for those geniuses who think it’s a good idea to do any of those things.) Oh, and the fine did stay at $70, though I doubt many officers will write tickets for this unless there’s a crash involved or unless the driver is being arrested for DUI, driving suspended, or some criminal offense.
Harford Voter says
finally someone who knows how to have a conversation about a law. thanks Reggie!
Thanks for the input Reggie. Appreciate it. The red light thing could pose threats and I probably wasn’t viewing it from that angle because I’m never lucky enough to be the lead car at the light. I’m usually the one stuck behind the person from the right turn lane that didn’t read the merge sign 1500 ft behind them, and needs to be in my lane and then realizes they really wanted to be in the left turn lane after all.
By the way, was the spaghetti eater enjoying his/her meal as they drove into the jersey wall??
While riding on Route 40 the other day, I noticed a Harford County Sheriff’s Car had a small computer on the right side of his interior. The officer kept glancing over at the computer while riding down the road. A few minutes later the officer pulled someone over, who pulled into the parking lot of where my destination was. I went into the store to buy cigarettes and some soda. The store was busy and I was there for about 15 minutes. While I was there, the person who was pulled over entered the store and I overheard him talking to another patron about how he was pulled over for having dead tags and registration. I asked the guy, “How did he know that your tags and registration weren’t up to date?” He replied, “That computer in his car told him my tags were dead.” Well, I was wondering, wouldn’t this new law make it so law enforcement can’t use these little computers to scan people’s tags and pull them over? Or is this another one of those laws that only apply to citizens? If a law is passed to prevent me from doing something while driving, don’t you think the law should apply to people who enforce the laws also? Just wondering for the sake of discussion. Will Harford County Law Enforcement modify their practices to comply within the confines of this law, or will this be another law that is Do as I say, Not as I do…….
Right with you Reggie. AND how often do you see Cops driving down the road Talking away on their cell phones?
Paul Mc says
Law enforcement are listed as one of the exceptions in the transportation code, 21-1124.2. Other exceptions would be placing calls to hospital, ambulance, emergency personnel, as well as the actual use by emergency personnel.
Like Paul said, there’s an exception for law enforcement when it comes to performing official duties. We’re dispatched to calls using the computers, get updates on calls through the computers, receive BOLO’s through the computers, and run tags through the computers. With running tags, most officers don’t even need to look at the computer other than a quick glance to make sure the correct screen is open. The computer vocalizes the results including suspended or expired tags, stolen vehicles, and suspended drivers and most officers will try to verify that information through dispatch before making the stop.
so please dont try and lump yourself in with them. they have a duty to do and have been using those computers in their car for quite sometime with no incidents. its “you” guys getting into accidents cause your trying to multi-task while driving and quite frankly you arent doing to well considering how many traffic accidents we have in this county. so please stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and just worry about yourself.
I really like your analogy to “you guys”. Remember, you were a normal citizen at one time before you were a cop, so this little take on “you guys” is the perfect example of why things have become us vs. them. The major problem with the police of today is that they have lost touch of what they’re job really is and to not treat citizens as a subspecies that is below the law enforcement. We do pay your salaries. Little attacks like those made by “REALLY” are what makes police officers look like cocky arrogant SOB’s that the public has learned to hate. So, “REALLY” you be what you want to be, just remember you are not above the law, you serve the law and to serve takes some responsibility like not making your Police Department look bad, which you have just done with your arrogant comments.
police are exempt when it comes to there duties. they have a computer in there car that receives calls for service, any bolos of any kind and the ability to run wanted/mva checks on tags and people.
Take Action says
It will be interesting to see how Ipod song changes are treated under the new law.
Isn’t there already a generalized “distracted driving” law on the books? Maybe it didn’t pass yet and I’m confused. I thought if you were doing anything in your car, including listening to your radio and rocking out really hard, or anything that causes you to drive in an unsafe manner, you can be pulled over and cited.
Granted, you prob aren’t going to be pulled over for eating spaghetti unless you are swerving errattically or something. Hopefully you single car crash into a tree and only the tree survives.
Pat Madden says
You no it makes no sence at all some of the driving laws MD puts in effect.Don’t get me wrong I agree with the no texting an know talking on cell phones an reading the texts.Ok that’s against the law.What’s the difference riding down any rode eating a meal. Its the same thing most of those people have only one hand on the wheel an who knows how long there eyes are off the road.Please tell me what’s the difference????NONE they are just as bad I also want to know why our so called law inforcement can ride down the road talking on there cell. Phone they are no different than anyone else however they get away with it.They have radios in there vechicles plus where one.So why are they not incuded oh because they are law inforcement no it isn’t right I see it everyday.So what’s going to change about that cituation?I would love to hear the answer to this .