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September 30, 2011

Stronger ban on texting and driving takes effect Sat

Glancing at a text message or an email from behind the wheel will cost $500 in fines starting Saturday when a new law goes into effect clarifying Maryland’s muddled driving-while-texting rules.

Until now, drivers were barred from writing text messages while negotiating traffic but permitted to read them.

"When you are driving, your eyes should be on the road," said Sen. Jim Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat who pushed the bill.

It’s bound to be the most noticeable of several hundred new laws that officially go on the books starting Saturday. Other new rules toughen penalties for drunk driving, gun possession and animal abuse.

Maryland drivers also aren’t supposed to talk on their cell phones per a year-old law, but doing so is remains a “secondary offense” meaning police can only pull over a driver who is also breaking another rule.

Drivers will still be able to use GPS systems on their phone while driving, or text an emergency operator.

Drivers who are ticketed can still choose to accept guilt and pay a $70 fine (plus one point on their license). If the texting leads to an accident, accepting guilt means an automatic $110 fine and three points.

Drivers who contest the tickets and lose in court will be guilty of a misdemeanor and have to pay the full $500.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:10 PM | | Comments (29)
Categories: 2011 legislative session


You drive up to an intersection just as the light changes to red. This is a long light sequence intersection and you have at least 3 minutes until your light turns green. Now who am I endangering if I glance at my phone to check on a text? They can do it because they can do it. More political balance in the legislature and these things would not happen.

What happens if you use the GPS system ON THE CELL PHONE?

How can the police enforce the law when you see them driving in their patrol cars and using their cell phones? Something is wrong with this picture.

"Drivers who are ticketed for texting can pay a $70 fine and accept one point on their license if they admit guilt and do not contest the charge... Drivers who contest the tickets and lose in court will be guilty of a misdemeanor and have to pay the full $500."
I have to wonder about the constitutionality of discouraging people to have their day in court by providing a 86% discount. How do such insane (and potentially unconstitutional) laws like this get passed in Maryland?

Hello I have seen police officers on facebook on the laptop in their cruisers while driving down the road

This is long overdue. Too many idiots, (teens especially) text WHILE driving and we've all seen it. Anybody that complains about this law are the ones that have future fines and points on their license. You don't like it? Tough!

Why pass a new "feel good" law when we always had laws against reckless driving on the books? More Maryland nannyism...

Hey Anonymous, you have NO idea what you're talking about. The reason police drive around on their cell phones in their patrol cars is because they don't have a choice. The state of MD, as well as many of the counties don't give them ANYTHING. They have to use their PERSONAL cell phones which THEY pay for themselves. Don't talk when you have no idea what you're talking about.

It's idiots like you that probably tell their children to be afraid of the police.

Another "rule?" Huh... and I thought they were laws.

But I don't see any law against playing video games while driving...

Say.... do you happen to have a link to the actual law? No offense, and this post leaves too many holes for me. I'd like to read the thing for myself.

True story about cops on their phones. Driving in morning rush hour traffic from Presidents street to Lombard I had a cop pull up along side and end up passing me looking at down at her phone the entire time. Hypocrites. We should be able to pull them over and fine them.

Michelle, it states IN the article above, "Drivers will still be able to use GPS systems on their phone while driving, or text an emergency operator. "

I hope that the police use common sense in enforcing this. Texting while sitting at a traffic light is of no danger to anyone. Police commonly violate these laws. Do a websearch on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Within this amendment is something called the equal protection clause. It basically states that laws are to be applied equally to everyone.

Normally I am ok with Mr. Brochins political efforts but the many distinct restrictions being put out there is getting ridiculous, I believe there used to be a distracted driving statute that could have covered this. I see it as a tool for the police officer to randomly stop people based on other criteria.

Hey Jim, why dont you roll back the driving age to 16 so many of us can make a choice as to whether we want our children to drive to school and otherwise work within the family when it comes to budgeting time. Risk is part of life, stop legislating choices that should be made by parents, insurance premiums and the laws of physics. That would be a much better use of your legislative superpowers!

beware the paramilitary police forces...

Maybe if people would drive in a more responsible fashion, we would not need to have this discussion at all. I hope that I would never do anything that could endanger another person. When everyone acts from that starting point, then we won't have people weaving in and out of traffic causing accidents, talking on their cell while driving in two lanes at once, or driving 20 mph over the speed limit to get someplace a few minutes sooner. No life is worth those few conveniences or minutes.

If the State wants to cash in big on this, they will put cops on bicycles. I ride a bike, I see people texting and looking at personal devices all the time. It's so offensive to common sense and safety. On a bicycle, the cop could sneek up on take a picture of the offender in the act. It would solve all of the State's budget woes, because people are pathologically self centered when it comes to looking at these personal devices.

The reason it is a problem for people to be texting while at a red light is because people are not paying attention. When the light turns green, they are still sitting there playing with their phone while cars are moving forward on either side of them. Then you have to tap your horn and they have the nerve to give you a dirty look or the finger. And as for cops using a cell phone, I would imagine that their training in observing all details no matter what they are doing would give them a bit more experience when using a cell phone while driving. I'm more concerned about their speeding and changing lanes without using signals and no emergency lights on than their use of a cell phone. And I would assume that the majority of cops are using their phones for work.

Martha had the only good comment here. It's the complete and total lack of respect for all people except yourself that causes so many problems on the roads. People don't care who they hurt or who they put in danger. All people care about anymore is getting there faster than everyone else.. getting ahead of another car... take take take and disregard all others... who cares who you have to trample to get where you need to go, right? People really need to be taught respect and common courtesy.

I believe the statute says that if you lose in court, you're subject to a maximum $500 fine, just like any non-incarcerable traffic offense. It doesn't set a mandatory $500 fine as this blog suggests.

Feel free to continue writing checks (saw it this am), applying make up, reading books, eating cereal, shaving or whatever else "takes your eyes" off of the road, but we all "feel" better about our safety now, right?

Money grabbing nonsense.

Why is talking on a cell phone still only a "secondary offense"? Make it a primary offense already! Three times in the last two weeks I have almost been run into by people on their phones.

Also, holding your phone while it is on speaker is STILL using your hands. This is also illegal!

So what's the fine for those who read books/newspapers, smoke, eat, drink, have young kids in the car, animals not tied down or caged and any other distraction while driving?

The worst offenders of this law are the state police and MTA police on I-95. Seldom do you not see one speeding by you and on a cell phone.

Just another money grab in the name of safety. Just enforce the laws on the books and stop coming up with new laws and fines. Oh wait, if they did that we wouldn't need the idiots in Annapolis anymore.

But the police can continue as they always do, breaking each and every law there is with little to no consequences, even typing on their in-car computers while they drive! I guess, as always, there are two law books; one for the citizens and one for the police.

people dont seem to know that law enforcement officers have a exemption from this texting law. also, the cellphone use may pertain to a certain incident they are working on.

here is an exact quote from the ellicott city patch article Driving Safely: Tips for Everyone, Including Police Officers...Texting and talking on a handheld cell phone while driving is illegal in Maryland. There is a law enforcement exception...

Umm, yaaaaa.. You show me a reputable study that shows that police primarily use their cellphone while driving to investigate crime and I'll believe it. They're chatty just like the rest of us.

To Rob, Police sometimes need to call other officers who work in different sections, as they may not be able to reach them over the radio. Say a patrol officer needs to call someone in youth services. You wouldn't be able to talk about an isolated case over the radio. they also may need uninterrupted talk time. On police radios, you hear all radio traffic from multiple beats. So yes, police do use cellphones on the job and it is necessary to utilize them for the quality performance we receive from our civil servants. Regardless, as I said before people are oblivious of the fact that police are exempt from this law. Thus it is comical how people are always ranting and raving, "I see cops on the phone all the time..."
We need to stop picking at the little things. All of us really need to recognize the huge amount of good that law enforcement officers do for our communities that we live in.

I am grateful that talking on your cell phone while driving is still only a secondary offense, primarily because I have used talking on the cell phone with friends and family to help prevent their having an accident by falling asleep. Perhaps we should all just get the ear pieces, but the technology needs to improve the voice quality for this to be a reasonable alternative.

That is what you are supposed to be focusing on. However, with all of the people who are out there today, it is a wonder that there aren't more accidents with mobile phone use!

Driving School

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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