A phone in hand is worth…a citation and a $500 fine?
Between 2007 and 2011, 152,000 people were injured in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted driving and 1,100 were killed in Maryland. This has prompted the state to join nine others as well as the District of Columbia in making talking on a handheld phone while driving a primary offense, meaning that if you’re not using a hands-free device while talking on your cellphone and driving, you can get pulled over and ticketed, even if you’ve got your phone on speaker. As long as you’ve got your phone in your hand, you’re violating the law.
Prior to the change in the law that took effect October 1, 2013, if a Maryland police officer saw someone talking on a handheld cellphone in while driving, he couldn’t pull them over unless the driver was doing something else wrong, like speeding, for example.
Under the new law’s provisions, drivers who are emailing, texting, or talking without a hands-free device can not only be issued a ticket, they may also be required to pay fines increased from $40 to as high as $500, and a first-time offender can get points added to their license.
More Tickets, So Less Accidents?
While it’s clear that the new law will undoubtedly increase the number of distracted driving tickets issued in Maryland, the jury is still out as to whether it will reduce the number of accidents taking place on the state’s roadways. A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety revealed that the number of insurance accident claims did not change much after similar laws banning texting while driving were passed in California (2009), Louisiana (2008), Minnesota (2008), and Washington (2008). Interestingly enough, crash rates actually increased in three of the four states, possibly reinforcing the idea that banning one source of distracted driving while ignoring the others will not solve the problem.