Maryland Suburb Considers Installing Cameras for Distracted Driving

cameras for catching distracted drivers

Almost all states have prohibited the use of cell phones while driving, but distracted driving remains a significant problem throughout the U.S. According to the CDC, 1,000 people are hurt, and 9 are killed, in distracted driving crashes daily. Many of these accidents involve people who text and drive, despite laws making it illegal to do so.

In Maryland, a particular suburb is testing a program that would enable police officers to catch drivers who reach for their phones behind the wheel. Montgomery County Council Member Tom Hucker is requesting permission from the state legislature to weigh the possibilities of installing an anti-distracted driving system. This would employ highway cameras to record drivers continuously. Officers or artificial intelligence would review the footage, identify the drivers, and send them a fine in the mail. It would be the first program of its kind in the country.

How Would Cameras Catch Distracted Drivers in Maryland?

The cameras lawmakers are reviewing would work like red light and speeding cameras, but instead of license plates, the devices would record what drivers are doing in their vehicles. Hucker and his office are reviewing technology from different companies around the globe.

One system, from Australian-based company Acusensus, was just launched in New South Wales. The system relies on fixed and transportable cameras to capture driver footage, which is then reviewed by artificial intelligence. During its 6-month trial in Australia, it caught 100,000 drivers on their phones out of the 8.5 million vehicles scanned.

Who’s On Board with Distracted Driving Camera Systems?

While the technology appears promising to reduce the relatively high rates of transportation fatalities in the suburb, not everyone is on board with the idea of installing such a system. Some Montgomery County officials, local police agencies, national motor clubs, and others don’t believe it’s fair to install a complex network of cameras that film everything drivers do. Citing privacy concerns and concerns about the effectiveness of such a program, many have voiced their skepticism.

One council member, Will Jawando, worries that drivers might be racially profiled or wrongly selected for discipline. “There are serious, serious privacy concerns here,” he said. “I think this is a really dangerous path to go down.” A public affairs manager with AAA Mid-Atlantic also opined that the technology is “too invasive.” Supporters, on the other hand, point out that drivers have no expectation of privacy in public, such as when they’re on public highways.

What are Current Laws and Penalties for Distracted Driving?

Some lawmakers have tried to increase the fines for texting and driving, but this has been rejected three times in a row. In 2018, a bill that would have raised the fine for texting and driving to $500 failed in the state Senate. Some stated the fine would simply be too costly for most Maryland drivers and would do more harm than good.

Currently, the maximum fine for the first violation of Maryland’s cell phone use law is $75 for using a handheld device and $70 for texting. If using a phone or texting contributes to a serious injury or death, the driver may face penalties of up to $5,000 in fines and 3 years in prison under a relatively new measure called Jake’s Law, which passed in 2014. License points may also be assessed.

Have You Been Cited for Distracted Driving? Contact Hillel Traub

Distracted driving contributes to so many accidents each year that police are really starting to crack down on offenders. Some traffic offenses are crimes that can stay on your record long after you’ve resolved matters with the court. If you’re facing a distracted driving citation, you can trust Hillel Traub to compose a proper defense while doing everything possible to protect your driver’s license.

Attorney Hillel Traub of The Law Office of Hillel Traub has extensive experience defending all types of traffic charges throughout Maryland. As a former Assistant Attorney General for the Maryland MVA, he has insider knowledge of the MVA’s inner workings that can greatly benefit your case. Contact our law firm for a free consultation by calling (410) 580-1100 or complete our contact form.