Maryland Cell Phone Ban Coming Friday

Attention drivers: Maryland’s new cell phone ban begins Friday.

Under the law, you can still use a hand-held cell phone at a stoplight in Maryland.  But once your car is in motion, you need to use a hands free device or hang up.

A violation will be considered a secondary offense. Drivers only can be pulled over if they are committing another offense such as running a stoplight. A driver would be fined $40 for the first cell phone violation and $100 thereafter.

"If you cause a crash, the fine can go up to $140 and as many as three points," said Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. Terrence Sheridan.

Like D.C., Maryland will allow courts to waive a penalty on a first offense if a driver can provide proof that he or she has purchased a hands-free accessory or device for the person's handheld telephone.

The hands-free driving law applies not only to Maryland residents but to anyone using Maryland roads.

Last year in Maryland, there were 549 fatal traffic accidents. State transportation officials said 30 percent of the recent accidents were caused by people texting or using hand-held cell phones.

Some have complained about the secondary offense status of the legislation, saying it doesn't do much good if police can't pull a driver over if they see the person talking while driving.  A Maryland attorney's blog explains:

"What makes the bill toothless is that it is a secondary offense. This means that the police are NOT allowed to stop a motorist if the officer sees an infraction. ... The best guess is that it is only a matter of time before this becomes a primary offense. It was not too long ago in Maryland when proponents of the mandatory seat belt law agreed to make it a secondary offense to ensure passage by the legislature. Just a few years later, it became a primary offense with little fanfare."

A new study from the Highway Loss Data Institute compared collision claims in four states before and after texting bans and found there were more crashes after the bans took effect.  Researchers think drivers are lowering their phones so police can’t see them texting and by doing so are taking their eyes off the road.

"We have plenty of studies that show it's not just making the call," said Lon Anderson, of AAA Mid-Atlantic. "It’s taking your mind off driving when you’re talking on a cell phone.”

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