According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, persons who use cell phones while driving are four times more likely to injure themselves in a serious traffic crash. Recognizing the serious danger, the Maryland General Assembly passed a bill earlier this month that will tighten the already existing cell phone usage laws, if signed by Gov. O’Malley. Consider the details of this important legislation and what it means for you.
Effects of the Bill
Maryland already has a law banning the use of a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving. However, it is a secondary offense. That means a police officer cannot issue a citation simply for seeing you driving while talking on your cell phone. If the officer pulls you over for some other traffic violation and observes that you are on your phone, then he can issue the citation. The new bill will toughen this ban because it makes talking on a handheld cellphone while driving a primary offense. Thus, an officer who observes you talking and driving can pull you over simply for that, even if you were not committing any other driving offenses. The bill does allow you to make a call while stopped at a traffic light and does permit the use of your phone’s GPS system while driving. So, if you live in Maryland and frequently drive while talking on your cellphone, don’t think you are safe from law enforcement as long as you are following all the traffic rules.
Supporters of the bill point to the findings of a Virgina Tech study, which stated that wireless devices are the No. 1 source of driver inattention. Other studies have shown that cell phones reduce the amount of brain activity associated with driving a vehicle by 37 percent. However, many opponents claim the legislation is not enough. The studies cited above do not show that actually holding a cell phone is the problem. The issue is the distraction caused by talking, whether you are on a hands-free device or not. It’s about where your mind is. We’re unlikely to see legislation presented that suggests we ban cell phone use in the car completely. Many would argue that talking to your passengers is just as distracting. It’s a pandora’s box of scenarios and opinions.
For now, stay within the law by not talking on your handheld phone while driving. If you are the victim of a serious injury, let the Law Offices of John Critzos, II help. Contact us for a free consultation.
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