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Maryland State Police Increase Distracted Driving Enforcement Patrols for National Awareness Month

Maryland State Police are ramping up efforts to combat distracted driving in honor of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April. According to the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration’s (MDOT MVA) Highway Safety Office, distracted driving is responsible for 48 percent of all crashes in Maryland, causing over 24,000 injuries and 200 fatalities each year.

In the first quarter of 2023, Maryland State Police issued 4,352 citations and warnings for distracted driving violations, including 4,199 drivers caught using their handheld phones while driving. Last year, troopers issued 21,757 citations and warnings for distracted driving violations.

Throughout the month of April, troopers will be conducting increased distracted driving enforcement patrols and working with allied law enforcement agencies to catch motorists who are driving while distracted. Seat belt enforcement will also be a priority.

“Any time drivers take their eyes off the road to use a phone, eat, put on make-up or change the radio station, they are driving blind,” said the Maryland State Police in a statement. “Looking down at a phone to read a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds – at 55 mph, that is equivalent to driving the length of three football fields – all without looking.”

Maryland law prohibits the use of handheld cellphones and texting while driving. First-time offenders face a maximum fine of $83, while second-time offenders face a maximum fine of $140 and third-time offenders face a maximum fine of $160. Writing, sending, or reading a text or electronic message while driving can result in a $70 fine and one point on the driver’s record. If the use of a device contributes to a crash, serious injury, or death, these penalties increase.

To help motorists avoid driving distracted, MDOT MVA and AAA Mid-Atlantic have offered the following tips:

  • Set an example for family and friends by avoiding distractions while driving.
  • Pull over to a safe location before sending a text message; never stop on the side of the highway.
  • Designate a passenger to respond to messages while driving.
  • Follow the Move Over Law and slow down when passing stopped or parked vehicles with warning signals.
  • Avoid scrolling or engaging in social media while driving.
  • If you need to eat or drink while on a trip, pull over to a safe area.
  • Place the phone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat if tempted to use it while driving.
  • Speak up if friends or family members use their phones while driving.

Combating distracted driving is a priority of Maryland’s Toward Zero campaign. For more information, visit https://zerodeathsmd.gov/.

During National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, Maryland State Police are reminding drivers of the dangers of driving while distracted and urging them to keep their focus on the road.

Source : The Southern Maryland Chronicle