A new law will soon allow law enforcement officers in Maryland to pull over and ticket drivers who are talking or texting while driving. Under the existing version of this law, drivers can only be pulled over and ticketed for using their cellular device while driving if they are committing another offense.
Maryland’s joins nine other states and the District of Columbia with similar laws.
The new law will take into effect on October 1, 2013. The fine for driving while using a cellular device will be $100. In passing the new law, Maryland joins nine other states and the District of Columbia in allowing law enforcement officers to fine drivers for using their cell phones while driving in the absence of any other offense.
The District of Columbia is the only jurisdiction in the area that currently employs such a law, the law was passed in 2004. Since then, District of Columbia law enforcement officers have issued 95,268 tickets for distracted driving, approximately 88,000 involved cell phone use.
Opponents argue that banning cell phones while driving is not an effective way to eliminate distracted driving.
However, opponents of the law argue that studies have shown that cracking down on drivers who use their cell phones while operating their vehicle has done little to reduce traffic accidents. For example, a study conducted by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) found that texting bans did not reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents in a jurisdiction. Similarly, an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) study showed that the District of Columbia had the same number of insurance collision claims before and after its cellphone driving ban was passed. According to the same study, the frequency of insurance collision claims from the District of Columbia were comparable to those of Maryland and Virginia, neither of which had cellphone driving bans at the time.
Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety explained that distracted driving is not a new concept, nor is it limited to cell phone use. As such, he suggests that focusing on cell phones and other electronic devices may not be an effective strategy for reducing distracted driving incidents.
In addition, opponents argue that banning the use of cellphones while driving is hard to enforce. It is often difficult for a law enforcement officer to determine whether someone is using their cell phone argues Kara Macek, spokeswoman for the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).
Also, laws such as the one passed in Maryland, allow drivers to utilize hands-free devices such as, a Bluetooth headset. As such, the law does not eliminate distracted driving altogether.
However, new technology which alerts drivers when they are too close to another vehicle, person, or object is currently being introduced in cars. Safety advocates hope that these systems will help bring distracted drivers’ attention back to the road.
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident which involved a distracted driver, you should contact an attorney immediately.