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New Bill Clamps Down on Cell Phone Use for Maryland Drivers

Cell phone laws in Maryland are about to tighten up for all drivers. The Maryland General Assembly passed House Bill HB 753, in conjunction with Senate Bill (SB) 339, making the use of a handheld device while driving a primary offense. Governor O’Malley signed the bill into law. It goes into effect October 1, 2013.

In 2011, there were 231 fatalities and 29,050 injuries in crashes involving a distracted driver in Maryland. People who use handheld devices while driving are four times more likely to crash and cause injuries to themselves or others. Currently, using a handheld device while driving is only a secondary offense, which means a police officer can only ticket someone for using a cell phone after pulling them over for another violation, such as speeding. When the new law takes effect, officers can pull drivers over solely for using a handheld device, making it a primary offense.

However, the car must be in motion. Talking on a cell phone at a red light is currently not against the law. The fines associated with this new law are harsher, than under the law when talking on a cell phone was only a secondary offense. Fines for a first offense are being raised from $40 to $75, and a second offense fine is being raised from $100 to $125. For a third and any subsequent violation, there is a new $175 fine. Points can only be assessed to a license if the violation contributed to a crash.

Texting for all drivers is already, and remains, a primary offense under the new law. And, the bans on all cell phone use for drivers less than 18 years old with a learner’s or provisional license is also not affected by this new legislation.

HB 753 passed side by side with SB 339, which requires all passengers in the rear seat to wear a seat belt. This is added to the current requirement that all children less than eight years old be restrained in a child safety seat. A violation of either rule is a secondary offense and punishable by a maximum of a $50 fine.

If you have any questions about how HB 753 may affect you, call an experienced and reputable traffic offense attorney in La Plata to schedule an appointment.

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