While relaxed health restrictions and reopenings have people on the go again this summer and reaching out to reunite with friends and family, it’s important to remember not to reconnect using your phone while driving.
Motorists caught talking or texting on a handheld phone while driving in Maryland face a maximum fine of $83 for a first offense, $140 for a second offense and $160 for a third offense. Drivers can also be fined $70 and face one point on their driving record if caught texting while driving, or $110 and three points if the use of a device contributes to a crash. Police officers who observe this primary offense can stop drivers, regardless of the presence of other violations.
As part of a national distracted driving initiative on April 8, Maryland State Police issued 386 citations, 474 warnings and 40 safety equipment repair orders. Of those, 116 citations and 119 warnings were specifically for distracted driving. Locally, state troopers joined officers from the Gaithersburg City Police Department, Rockville City Police Department, Montgomery County Police Department and Maryland Transportation Authority Police. The agencies conducted 138 traffic stops, issuing 104 citations, 78 warnings and 19 equipment repair orders, and arresting two people on outstanding warrants.
The increased enforcement follows the 2014 passage of Jake’s Law. Named after Jake Owen, a 5-year-old from Baltimore when he was killed in a crash caused by a distracted driver in 2011, the law states that a driver causing serious injury or death while talking or texting on a handheld phone may receive up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Distracted driving contributes to more than 26,000 injuries and 180 fatalities on Maryland roads each year, according to state police.