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Maryland beefs up distracted driving law

The dangers of distracted driving, whether it is talking on a cellphone or sending a text message while driving, have been a recurring subject in the media lately. However, unlike some other media stories, the coverage is warranted. According to statistics from the Department of Transportation, distracted drivers killed 3,331 people in car accidents during 2011 alone. Additionally, distracted drivers were responsible for 387,000 injuries during the same time.

In the Mid-Atlantic area, about 58 percent of crashes during 2012 involved a distracted driver, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. Additionally distracted drivers were responsible for about half of the 511 roadway fatalities in this region last year.

Because of the havoc that distracted drivers have wreaked on the nation’s roadways, many states, including Maryland, have passed laws restricting distracting activities behind the wheel, such as a ban on texting while driving. Although these laws are an important first step in addressing the problem, many think that they do not go far enough.

In response to this sentiment, Maryland has joined other states in prohibiting the use of handheld cellphones while driving. Under legislation that went into effect on October 1, the use of a handheld cellphone while driving was made a primary offense. This means that drivers can be pulled over and ticketed if they are observed violating the ban by law enforcement. Under the prior law, the offense was a secondary offense, meaning that the offending driver could only be pulled over if he or she violated another traffic regulation.

In addition to making it easier to be pulled over by law enforcement, the law increases the penalties for violations of the ban. Under the new law, a first-time offender can face an $83 fine. A second offense carries a fine up to $140, increasing to $160 for each offense after that.

However, the law contains an exception: Drivers can still use their phones in emergencies to call 911 to summon help.

Consult a personal injury attorney

Although the fines for cellphone use may seem rather modest, they are not the only expenses that violators can face. Under Maryland law, those who drive while distracted are often considered negligent. Thus, drivers who injure or kill another driver due to distraction can be held liable for damages in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, which can be considerable.

If you or a loved one has been injured (or killed) due to the negligence of another driver, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can investigate the causes of the accident and work to ensure that you receive all compensation due to you under the law.