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Distracted Driving and Texting in Maryland

It is no surprise that distracted driving is a major cause of motor vehicle accidents in Maryland. Of those accidents that can be attributed to distracted driving, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration notes that texting and phone use are the top two causes. Like other states, Maryland has a law in effect that prohibits you from using a handheld phone while operating a vehicle. Using a handheld phone can include reading, writing, or sending an electronic message or text.

Any type of distraction can endanger yourself as the driver, any passengers you have in the vehicle, as well as pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and other drivers.

Types of Distractions

A variety of activities are classified by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration as distractions. These include:

  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Texting
  • Talking to other passengers
  • Drinking and eating
  • Reading, including a map
  • Watching a video
  • Grooming
  • Using a navigation system
  • Adjusting your radio, MP3 player, CD player, etc.

Classifying Distractions

Distractions can affect you in multiple ways, such as sensory and cognitive impacts. If you make a phone call, you are doing more than just dialing the phone. You are holding it, looking at it, and your brain is listening and thinking about the conversation. Distractions can be classified as:

  • Auditory: This is hearing something that is not related to operating a motor vehicle
  • Visual: Looking at something other than the road and conditions that affect your driving
  • Cognitive: When you think about something else besides driving
  • Manual: When you are manipulating something other than the steering wheel

Distracted Driving Laws in Maryland

Maryland has distracted driving laws on the books, and a ban on cell phone use applies to everyone, no matter how experienced or old you are. The law defines a handheld device as any cell phone that can be used to access wireless communication services and any handheld electronic devices that are part of a car’s operating equipment. These can include a device for text messaging, handheld electronic games, handheld computers, or any other device that can be utilized to send or receive emails. It does not apply to GPS or navigation systems if they are built into the vehicle.

The law defines operating a vehicle as one that is being operated on the road with a running motor, even if you have stopped moving but the motor is still running while sitting in traffic or at a traffic signal and/or stop sign. The law is not applicable to vehicles that have pulled safely off to the side of or off the road.

Distracted Driver Penalties

Penalties for first-time offenders is up to $83, while a second offense can result in a fine of up to $140. Third offenses can run you $160 in fines. This is in addition to costs connected to any court proceedings. In the event distracted driving causes an accident, there may be points assessed, as well. If you injure or kill someone while texting or using a phone, you can be fined up to $5,000 and sentenced to up to three years in jail.

Hiring a Maryland Accident Attorney

If you have been injured in an accident caused by someone else’s distracted driving, you need to speak to a Maryland auto accident attorney. An experienced attorney can help get you the compensation you deserve and ensure the at-fault party is held liable. Contact the Law Office of Robert R. Castro at 301-870-1200 to schedule a consultation.

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