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.
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.
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!