Fewer people died because of traffic accidents in Maryland last year than in 2009, extending a record drop in statewide motor vehicle fatalities. The statistics, announced by Gov. Martin O’Malley, showed that Maryland car accidents claimed the lives of 550 people in 2009 compared to 496 people last year.
The governor combined the improved news with the introduction of a new law that took effect on Oct. 1, banning driving while texting. The new law is a supplement to existing legislation and fills gaps that older cellphone and texting laws did not cover.
The first state texting while driving law was enacted in the fall of 2009, followed by a hands-free cellphone law in 2010. The latest driving law is meant to plug holes that were not addressed in the first two. It now contains a provision that adds reading text messages to the bans already in place on sending or writing texts while driving.
Texting while driving is a primary enforcement law. Police can stop drivers exclusively for texting offenses, even if no other traffic rules are broken.
The latest Maryland texting while driving law is not applicable to a driver’s use of a global positioning system or the use of a cellphone to make a 9-1-1 emergency call or text. It is a misdemeanor to violate the recently enacted driving while texting law. A first-time offender can expect a $70 fine. The amount of the fine increases for repeat offenders to $110.
Since the inception of the original state distracted driving laws, police throughout Maryland have issued more than 5,200 citations for failure to use hands-free cellphones and more than 4,000 warnings. Nearly 380 drivers were cited for driving while texting. Another 587 were warned.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that nearly 70 percent of drivers admitted to using a cellphone while driving in the month leading up to the survey. More than 20 percent of all drivers surveyed confessed to reading, writing or sending a text while driving. Forty percent of drivers below the age of 35 told researchers they had texted while driving in the previous month. Hopefully the new law will help ensure the safety of motorists on Maryland roads.
Source: thebaynet.com, “Record Low Fatalities, New Texting Law October 1,” Sept. 30, 2011