Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, founding member and senior partner
I am thrilled to report that Maryland has changed its law governing cell phone use while driving. Effective October 1, 2010, it is now illegal to use a cell phone while driving unless a hands free device is used. Here’s a list of salient portions of the legislation:
"MARYLAND CELL PHONE LAW FACT SHEET -EFFECTIVE OCTOBER 1, 2010
1. What is Maryland’s Cell Phone Law that takes effect on October 1, 2010?
Maryland Senate Bill 321 and House Bill 934 were signed into law by Governor O’Malley. The new law will prohibit all Maryland drivers from using a cell phone without a hands free device while operating a motor vehicle in motion on a street or highway. In addition, the new law would prohibit a school bus driver or a holder of a learner’s permit, or provisional license who is 18 years of age or older, from driving a motor vehicle while using a handheld telephone. A driver under 18 already is prohibited from using any cell phone.
2. What exceptions are allowed?
Phone calls placed to 9-1-1, ambulance, hospital, fire, or law enforcement agencies are allowed, as are calls made by emergency and law enforcement personnel. A driver is allowed to turn a handheld phone on or off and to initiate or terminate a call.
3. Is the law a primary offense?
The new law is a secondary offense, meaning that a driver must first be detained for another offense, such as speeding or negligent driving, before he or she can be ticketed for a cell phone offense. However, be advised that "negligent driving" is a primary offense in Maryland and can be used as a precursor to citing violators of the new cell phone law.
4. What is the fine for the offense?
The fine for a first offense would be $40 and subsequent offenses would be $100. Points will not be assessed to the first-time violator’s driving record, except, three points are assessed if the violation contributed to a crash. One point is assessed for a second or subsequent offense.
5. Is this the same law as the texting law?
No, Maryland also bans texting while driving. This law prohibits an individual from writing or sending a text message while operating a motor vehicle that is in motion or in the travel portion of the highway. If convicted of violating this law a person may be assessed a fine not exceeding $500. This law does not apply to texting 9-1-1 or using a global positioning system.
6. Why is this law needed?
Studies indicate that cell phone conversations distract a driver and delays reaction time, which can cause and increase the severity of a vehicular crash. The National Safety Council has estimated that cell phone use is responsible for 1.6 million crashes a year, nationally — about 28 percent of all crashes. Maryland now joins 7 other states (Calif., Conn., Del., N.J., N.Y., Ore. and Wash.), D.C. and the Virgin Islands in banning handheld cell phone use while driving. For more information, please visit www.ChooseSafetyForLife.com"
As you know from reading my previous blogs about distracted driving, I give lectures to middle and high schools every year about the adverse effects of distracted driving. Hand-held cell phone use is as dangerous as drinking and driving. Texting while driving is three times as dangerous as drunk driving. Don’t do it. Please drive safely.
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About the author:
Mr. Zambri is a board-certified civil trial attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocates and a Past-President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. He has been rated by Washingtonian magazine as a "Big Gun" and among the "top 1%" of all lawyers in the Washington metropolitan area. The magazine also describes him as "one of Washington’s best–most honest and effective lawyers" who specializes in personal injury matters, including automobile accident claims, premises liability, product liability, medical malpractice, and work-accident claims. He has successfully litigated multiple cases against truck and bus companies, the Washington Metropolitan Area transit Authority, and other automobile owners. His law firm, in fact, has obtained the largest settlement ever in a personal injury case involving WMATA. Mr. Zambri has also been acknowledged as one of "The Best Lawyers in America" by Best Lawyers (2011 edition) and has been repeatedly named a "Super Lawyer" by Law and Politics magazine (March/April 2010)– national publications that honor the top lawyers in America.
If you have any questions about your legal rights, please email Mr. Zambri at email@example.com or call him at 202-822-1899.