Maryland House Approves New Texting while Driving Bill
Distracted driving causes approximately a quarter of all car crashes each year. According to the CDC, at least 9 people are killed because of a distracted driver while over 1,000 are injured per day in an accident involving a distracted driver. Distracted driving is understood as driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from the road and increases the risk of being involved in or causing an accident.
Using a cell phone to talk or text is among the most dangerous driver distractions. Across the country, most states have taken measures to ban texting and driving. In fact, just two states — Arizona and Montana — do not have a texting ban. In Maryland, all drivers are prevented from using a handheld device and texting. Currently, using a phone behind the wheel is a primary offense, and a person who is caught texting while driving can face a monetary fine; however, several lawmakers believe that the fine doesn’t go far enough.
Maryland Seeks Stronger Penalties for Distracted Driving
For the third year in a row, Maryland lawmakers are considering a bill (House Bill 42) that would increase the penalties for texting while driving. Today, Maryland texting while driving laws rely on a tiered system to issue penalties:
- $75 for a first offense
- $125 for a second offense
- $175 for a third offense
The Maryland House of Delegates has approved the bill by a narrow margin of 78-58. If the bill passes the Senate, judges would be able to use their discretion to issue fines of up to and including $500 for a first, second, or third offense texting while driving violation.
Not All Legislators on Board for House Bill 42
House Bill 42 provoked mixed emotions from legislators of both political parties. Those who showed support for the increased fine believe that the current laws are failing to break drivers’ bad habits. Many claim that, despite the current fines, they continue to see drivers with mobile phones in their hands.
Opponents of the bill believe that a $500 penalty is too costly for many Maryland residents. As such, they believe the penalty would unintentionally spark further legal issues for these residents who will not be able to pay the fine.
Proponents counter the opposition by pointing out that judges would have wide discretion when deciding the final penalty. They would be able to evaluate the facts of the case to assess a fair punishment based on their findings. Many believe that the current system, which issues a fine of $175 for a third and subsequent offenses, is simply ineffective.
Of all the states which have imposed driving while texting bans, Alaska has the most severe punishment: a fine of $500 for a first offense — down from a $10,000 penalty and up to 1 year in jail. Drivers in Louisiana also pay up to $500 for a first offense and up to $10,000 for a second offense. Some have noted that increased fines do not correlate to increased safety, but are happy that lawmakers are discussing the issue.
Fight your Ticket with a Baltimore Traffic Violations Lawyer
When you get pulled over for a traffic violation, you get more than a citation. If you pay the ticket, you will accumulate points against your driver’s license, which can add up and lead to further problems. The more points you accumulate, the closer you get to a license suspension. Break the cycle by retaining an experienced traffic attorney in Baltimore to resolve your violations.
Hillel Traub of The Law Office of Hillel Traub was a Maryland Assistant Attorney General for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration before shifting his focus toward helping drivers avoid points and court fines. He has over 20 years of experience helping drivers resolve traffic violations and retain their license. Call 410-580-1100 or email us.