Police/Fire, Traffic

Maryland State Police to focus on distracted driving during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

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PIKESVILLE, MD—April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Maryland State Police are reminding motorists of the dangers of being on the road and not paying attention.

According to the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration’s Highway Safety Office, more than 24,000 people are injured and 200 others die each year on Maryland roads as a result of distracted driving. Distracted driving contributes to 48 percent of all crashes in Maryland. Each of these injuries and deaths were preventable.

In the first three months of 2023, Maryland State Police troopers have issued a total of 4,352 citations and warnings for distracted driving violations. Last year, troopers issued 21,757 citations and warnings for distracted driving violations of which, 4,199 were drivers who were caught using their handheld phone while their vehicle was in motion.

Troopers across Maryland are increasing their distracted driving enforcement patrols and awareness efforts this month. Troopers will be working collaboratively with allied law enforcement agencies to stop motorists who are driving distracted. Seat belt enforcement will be also be a priority.

Any time drivers take their eyes off the road to use a phone, eat, put on make-up or change the radio station, they are driving blind. Looking down at a phone to read a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds – at 55 mph, that is equivalent to driving the length of three football fields – all without looking.

Maryland law prohibits the use of a handheld cellphone and texting while driving. First-time offenders caught using a cellphone while driving face a maximum of an $83 fine, second-time offenders a maximum of $140 fine and third-time offenders a maximum of $160 fine.

Writing, sending or reading a text or electronic message while driving can result in a $70 fine and one point on their driving record. If the use of a device contributes to a crash, serious injury or death, these penalties increase.

MDOT MVA and AAA Mid-Atlantic have offered some tips to help motorists avoid driving distracted:

  • Serve as an example for your family and friends by avoiding distractions while driving.
  • Pull away from travel lanes and park in a safe location if you need to send a text message – never stop on the side of the highway.
  • Designate a passenger to respond to any messages while you are behind the wheel.
  • Remember the Move Over Law. When approaching any stopped, standing or parked vehicle displaying warning signals, move over if it is safe to do so or slow down when passing.
  • Save social media for later. Do not use your phone to scroll or engage in social media while driving.
  • If you need to eat or drink while on a trip, pull over in a safe area and enjoy your food before getting back behind the wheel.
  • If tempted to use your phone while driving, place the phone in the trunk, glove box or back seat.
  • Speak up. If your friends or family members use their phones while driving, ask them to stop.

Officials say combatting distracted driving in the state is a pillar to Maryland’s Toward Zero campaign.

Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush from Pexels

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