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Maryland distracted driving laws netting many offenders

Distracted driving, in the form of using cellphones while behind the wheel, has become a nagging problem in Maryland. To address the growing concern, the state banned the use of cell phones while driving six months ago. According to Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, laws will become even stricter before the year ends.

So far, motorists charged with cell phone use more than tripled over the first six months of the law, according to the state's District Court. From October 2013, the date when the new legislation took effect, to April 1, nearly 15,000 drivers have been ticketed. Meanwhile, thousands more were ticketed for a secondary offense of using a handheld phone while driving.

A Maryland State Police officer explained that they just want drivers to be safe. Distracted driving can easily cause auto accidents. In fact, one particular crash led to the drafting and eventual signing of the distracted driving legislation. A Five-year-old died in 2011 when a driver talking on a cell phone hit the family car with the boy in it. This legislation is named "Jake's Law," in remembrance of the boy.

Jake's Law requires drivers to pay a fine of $83 for a first offense, while the penalties increase to $140 and $160 respectively, for the second and third offenses. If an accident was caused by driving distracted, a driver will receive three points on the driver's driving record and will pay the respective fines. A driver can get a year in prison and a $5,000 fine is the offense resulted in a fatality.

The state's aggressive approach to curb distracted driving is praiseworthy. However, Maryland motorists should still be wary of other negligent practices that can cause a car crash, such as disregard of traffic rules and drunk driving. Besides relying on state laws, a motorist injured in a car accident can file a legal action against a negligent party.

Source: Cecil Whig, "Maryland drivers charged with cellphone usage triples," Nicole Jones, April 15, 2014

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