4.1.19 – (Pikesville, MD) MSP
With April being National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Maryland State Police are reminding motorists just how dangerous it can be on the road if you are not paying attention to your surroundings.
According to the Maryland Highway Safety Office, more than 27,000 people are injured and 185 others die each year on Maryland roads because of distracted driving. Distracted driving contributes to 58 percent of all crashes in Maryland.
The Maryland State Police are continuing to make enforcement of distracted driving a top priority. In 2018, troopers issued 16,050 citations and 18,671 warnings for distracted driving violations. This includes 2,939 citations and 2,591 warnings during National Distracting Driving Month last year. For the first three months of 2019, troopers issued 3,065 citations and 3,528 warnings for distracted driving violations.
Troopers across Maryland are increasing their distracted driving enforcement and awareness efforts this month. Among the initiatives set to take place this month includes work by the Hagerstown and Frederick barracks to address the issue. Motorists can expect to see Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration message boards lit up across Western Maryland that will read, “Phones down – Buckle up enforcement underway.” Troopers will be working collaboratively with allied law enforcement agencies to stop motorists from using their cellphones while driving. In conjunction with putting the phones down, seat belt enforcement will be a priority this year, a focus enhanced by the Maryland Highway Safety Office.
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration defines distracted driving as any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, taking to people in your vehicle and/or adjusting the stereo, entertainment or navigation systems. Every time a driver takes their eyes off the road and focuses their attention on something else, they are endangering themselves, those in their vehicle and everyone else on the road around them.
It has been estimated that a person texting takes their eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. To put this in perspective, this is like covering the length of a football field while driving blindfolded if you are driving 55 mph.
The NHTSA reported that in 2016 alone, 3,450 people were killed in the U.S. as a result of distracted driving. In addition, approximately 391,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted driving.
Maryland law prohibits the use of a handheld cellphone and texting while driving. First-time offenders caught using a cellphone while driving face a maximum of an $83 fine, second-time offenders a maximum of $140 fine and third-time offenders a maximum of $160 fine.
Drivers can also be fined $70 and face one point on their driving record if caught texting while driving. If the use of a device contributes to a crash, the fine may increase to $110 and three points on your driving record.
The increased enforcement effort against distracted driving comes after the passage of Jake’s Law. In effect since 2014, Jake’s Law is named after Jake Owen, who was just 5 when he was killed in a car accident caused by a distracted driver in 2011. The law states that a driver causing serious injury or death while talking on a handheld cellphone or texting may receive up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine. These are primary offenses and police officers can stop drivers when those activities are observed, regardless of the presence of other violations.
The Maryland Highway Safety Office has offered some tips to help motorists avoid driving distracted:
- Use your cellphone for emergency situations only.
- If you are drowsy, pull off the road.
- You should limit the number of passengers, as well as the level of activity inside the car.
- Avoid eating while driving.
- Do your multi-tasking outside of your vehicle.
Combatting distracted driving in the state is a pillar to Maryland’s Toward Zero campaign. For more information, visit http://www.towardzerodeathsmd.com