Tuesday, October 1, 2013, two new laws regarding the use of cellphones while driving and mandatory use of seat belts became effective in Maryland. These new laws are just two of the hundreds that took effect Tuesday as a result of actions taken by the General Assembly in the past year.
Talking on a cell phone while driving has been illegal in Maryland since 2010 as a “secondary offense.” This means that, until the new law passed, a police officer could only cite a motorist for using his cellphone if the driver was also committing another offense, such as speeding, and could not stop a driver solely because he was talking on a cell phone.
Under the new law, using a cell phone while driving is now a “primary offense” punishable by a fine up to $75 for a first violation, with the fine increasing by $50 for each subsequent violation. Drivers are still permitted to talk on their cellphones in the car as long as the vehicle isn’t moving, such as at a stoplight. Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia already have already adopted laws that banned texting while driving and many others have placed limitations on regular cell-phone usage.
Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association, commented on the importance of the new law, “It’s really vital that the law is primary because drivers are very reluctant to put the phones down unless they think they’re going to get a ticket.”
According to report published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHSTA”), in 2009, over five thousand people were killed on America’s roadways and another 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Of those crashes involving distracted drivers causing death, cell phone use was the cited distraction in 995. Further, of the crashes that resulted in injury, more than twenty-four thousand were the result of cellphone related distractions.
Also effective October 1, 2013, is a measure requiring all occupants of a vehicle, including passengers in back seats, wear seat belts. Prior to the passage of the new law, backseat passengers over 16 years old were not required to wear seat belts. The seat belt law is, similar to the old cell phone ban, a secondary offense, carrying a maximum fine of $50. Head of the Motor Vehicle Administration, John T. Kuo, stated that, although Maryland has a high rate of seat belt compliance, over ninety percent, the dangers associated with failing to wear a seat belt warranted the new law. According to Kuo, “In a crash, that back seat passenger, if you’re unrestrained, becomes a projectile to the front seat passenger.”
The qualified attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by the negligent driving of another. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car or motorcycle accident, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.