Results tagged “cell phone laws” from Maryland Car Accident Lawyer Blog

New Maryland Driving Laws

October 12, 2013

This month Maryland drivers will have to live up to the state's new expectations. There are two important new rules for drivers, effective October 1, 2013.

Cell Phones


In the continuing march of more severe cell phone laws, the legislature has seen fit to increase penalties and make enforcement easier. In 2010 drivers were prohibited from talking on cell phones without a hands free device. These were only secondary offenses, meaning that drivers could only be cited if they were violating some other law (like speeding). In 2011 the use of a cell phone for writing, reading or sending text messages also became illegal, and it was set as a primary offense, meaning that drivers could be cited even without violation of another law.

However, it's difficult to prove that a driver was sending or reading a text message. Perusing a website? Using GPS navigation? Playing Angry Birds? Maybe not good driving practice, but not technically illegal.

The current cell phone law makes talking on a cell phone without a hands-free option punishable as a primary offense (no other lawbreaking required). The fines are set as $75.00 for the first offense, $125.00 for a second offense, and $175.00 for subsequent offenses. Maryland drivers should be careful, even if they have hands-free devices. Many drivers with such devices pick up the phone to see whose calling, or even push buttons on the phone to activate the hands-free. Those movements can be misinterpreted by police, even though they are not technically violations. The law states that "A driver of a motor vehicle that is in motion may not use the driver's hands to use a handheld telephone other than to initiate or terminate a wireless telephone call or to turn on or turn off the handheld telephone."

The new law can be found in Maryland's Transportation Code, section 21-1124.2.

Seatbelts

Of course, everyone should wear seatbelts. Everyone in the front seat must wear a seatbelt, or they can be pulled over and given a $50.00 fine. This is a primary offense. Rear passengers must also follow the law, but violation is a secondary offense.

Stay safe, Marylanders!

Spying on Texting Drivers

October 17, 2012

Text Distracted Driving.jpgThe Federal government wants to know whether you've been texting and driving. They have authorized grants to two states, Connecticut and Massachusetts, for anti-texting enforcement programs. Each state will get $275,000.00.

This money will be used to train police officers on how to detect texters--not only from their patrol cars, but from highway overpasses and more covert locations. I'm not sure how this will work, exactly. One police officer on a bridge, watching traffic come toward him. That officer radios to another officer on the road below, and tells him which car to pull over. Maybe it's as simple as that.

One thing is for sure--some people who flaunt Maryland's cell phone use laws are getting crafty--many keep the phones down below window-level to avoid police detection. Of course, that makes it harder to see the road, which is more likely to cause crashes.

Maryland automobile accident lawyers should have an arsenal of discovery ready to determine when illegal cell phone use may have contributed to an accident. In some cases, this involves written questions, requests for production of cell phone records, and subpoenas to cell phone companies.

See the U.S. Department of Transportation's press release and Ray LaHood's blog.

Increasing Penalties For Distracted Driving

July 11, 2012

Given the prevalence of cell phones and smartphones, the likelihood is that many if not most automobile accidents are caused by distracted driving. The NHTSA estimates about 3,000 fatal distracted driving auto accidents in 2011. One study suggests that cell phones may be the cause of 1.6 million accidents per year, which is 28% of all auto accidents. Maryland has been improving the laws year after year, but some research questions whether existing laws around the nation are good enough.

distracted driving accident attorney.jpgAs far as punishment, some believe that higher fines will increase compliance, just as it did for seatbelt laws. New Jersey is considering a $200 fine for the first offense with a license suspension for 90 days for the third offense. Connecticut has already increased fines to $125 for a first offense. In Maryland, the fines are relatively light. Talking on a cell phone can cost $40 for a first offense and $100 for subsequent offenses. Sending or reading e-mails or texts is punishable by $70 fine for the first offense and $110 for subsequent offenses.

We should beef up the penalty provisions--larger fines and points (right now, there are no points issued for speaking on a phone for the first offense unless it causes a collision). Financial penalties provide most people with an incentive for good behavior, which will lead to safer roads.

What do Doctors, Drivers, and Pedestrians Have in Common?

May 14, 2012

Distracted pedestrian.jpgNone of them should be texting. We've blogged before about distracted driving and even distracted doctoring. Now, Fort Lee New Jersey is issuing tickets to pedestrians who ignore traffic signals or who jaywalk while looking down at their phones.

There were 117 tickets issued in one month, at $85.00 a pop. The question here, as with all governmental cell phone regulation, is whether the government should be taking this parental role? Opponents of regulation say that the government should just leave us alone, and that if we are stupid enough to text and walk across the street, we deserve to get run over. Proponents say that the problem does not just affect those who text--it affects the motorist who hits us, the person who hits them, and costs taxpayers money when someone isn't insured and needs medical care.

The problem is of course, widespread. A New York State Senator commented in an ABC news article on one of two deaths in Brooklyn:

A gentleman was standing on the corner ready to cross the street wired into his iPod, he crosses over and walks right into an NYC bus.

Here in Maryland, one of the problems is the law. Let's assume these facts:

  1. A pedestrian texting while crossing the street at a crosswalk--he has a walk signal
  2. A driver runs a red light, hitting the pedestrian
In that circumstance, the driver will undoubtedly argue that the pedestrian was contributorily negligent--that is, the pedestrian was partially responsible for his own injuries. The pedestrian would argue that, even if he was paying attention, he wouldn't have been able to get out of the way in time. However, the issue might be close enough to get to a jury (and you never know what a jury is going to do in a case like that). The pedestrian's case gets even worse if he is not crossing at a crosswalk.

Maryland's contributory negligence law is harsh--we're one of a very small number of states that still have this archaic rule. Basically, if the person filing the lawsuit was the negligent cause of his injuries, even by 0.01%, he cannot win a lawsuit. In other states, the plaintiff would be able to recover 99.99% of his damages. This makes sense, because the other guy had the most negligence.

distracted runner.jpgThese types of laws might bleed over into non-texting scenarios. What about runners? Almost every runner has an iPod or MP3 player plugged into their ears. If she doesn't hear a vehicle, and get hit even though the driver was speeding excessively, the runner might not be able to recover for her injuries.

Now, laws like this don't always provide evidence of what's called negligence per se. Negligence per se means that violation of the law is presumptive evidence that the lawbreaker was negligent. Whether or not that applies, the fact that the law becomes part of the public consciousness and the expectation of behavior means that an absolute defense of contributory negligence is more likely.

So, whether Maryland chooses to adopt these "distracted walking" laws, the safest course of action is to walk carefully, head up, and phone tucked away.

Contact Us
If you've been in a Maryland auto accident where cell phones, text messages, e-mails or other forms of distracted driving played a role, contact us at 443.850.4426, or online for a free consultation. You will speak directly to a lawyer from your first call. Don't let your case be handed off to a paralegal.