Can You Check Your Phone at a Red Light in Maryland?

Checking your phone at a stoplight

Distracted driving contributes to thousands of deaths nationwide annually. In Maryland, many car crashes which result in serious injuries and fatalities happen because people take their attention away from the road — a mistake that can turn serious in an instant. Whether you grab a bite or text behind the wheel, breaking laws that aim to curb distracted driving can lead to financial and other penalties.

The State of Maryland passed a law preventing people from driving with a handheld device. Any driver who is caught texting or reading texts or emails on their device while operating in the travel portion of the road can be issued a $70 fine and 1 point against their license. Does this mean that you can still incur a fine when you’re stopped at a traffic light?

Texting and driving laws vary across all states. Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia have similar distracted driving laws, which cover texting and other types of distractions. In Maryland, anyone who is caught texting while their car is in Drive, whether they’re in motion or stopped at a red light, may receive a citation and a fine.

Understanding Distracted Driving Laws

There are many types of distractions that can lead you astray from driving safely. According to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, driving distractions fall into four categories:

  • Visual – looking at something other than the road
  • Auditory – hearing something not related to driving
  • Manual – manipulating something other than the wheel
  • Cognitive – thinking about something other than driving

Some of the most common behaviors that divert drivers’ attention from the road are:

  • Texting
  • Using a smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Grooming
  • Looking at maps or GPS systems
  • Changing radio stations or CDs/MP3 players
  • Talking to passengers
  • Talking on a cell phone
  • Smoking

There are more than 120,000 car crashes per year in Maryland, and it’s likely that almost all of them could have been prevented by drivers paying more attention to their surroundings. Texting and driving is a primary offense meaning police in Maryland can pull you over if they see you on your phone and witness no other violation.

What are Maryland’s Distracted Driving Laws?

Police officers in Maryland have the authority to stop any driver who is caught using a handheld phone to do anything other than turn it on or off or to call emergency personnel. Drivers may also use their handheld cellular phones to initiate or terminate wireless calls. Drivers may make wireless or hands-free calls unless they’re younger than 18 years old.

Overview of Distracted Driving Laws in Maryland

  • Is texting and driving permitted in Maryland? No.
  • Can you send or receive messages at a red light in Maryland? No.
  • Can drivers use handheld devices? No.
  • Can drivers use hands-free devices? Yes.
  • Are there restrictions for young drivers using hands-free devices? Yes.
  • Can drivers use headphones or headsets while driving in Maryland? No.

It Pays to Fight a Distracted Driving Ticket

Distracted driving might not seem like a serious violation, but depending on what specific traffic law you broke and how many prior violations you have, a citation for distracted driving may lead to undesirable penalties.

If you’re stopped for texting while driving and no crash occurred, you could face a fine of $70 and 1 point against your license. If texting contributes to a crash, that fine may increase to $110 and you may incur 3 points against your license. Drivers license points add up and can ultimately lead to a license suspension, which is why it usually pays off to fight a distracted driving ticket as soon as possible.

Choose Hillel Traub to Fight Your Traffic Ticket in Baltimore and Surrounding Areas

The Law Office of Hillel Traub serves residents of Baltimore and surrounding areas by providing competent traffic defense with personal attention to each case. Attorney Hillel Traub has more than 20 years of experience in challenging citations and allegations of criminal wrongdoing. He has worked as a former Assistant Attorney General for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. Find out how he can help you overcome your charges by calling (410) 580-1100 for a free consultation or complete our contact form.