Last fall, Maryland lawmakers added teeth to two key state traffic laws — those governing the use of cell phones and seat belts. Baltimore County car accident lawyers are familiar with Maryland traffic safety laws, which are often broken during the course of a motor vehicle crash. Let’s take a look at changes to our Maryland state cell phone and seat belt laws.
Most likely you’ve witnessed a scene like this: Another driver speeds past you on the Baltimore Beltway with a cell phone in one hand — talking a mile a minute — seemingly oblivious to the traffic around them. If you’ve witnessed this scene recently on any Maryland roadway, it’s now a primary traffic offense.
As of October 1, 2013, Maryland’s Cell Phone Use Ban (TR 21–1124.2) now treats hand-held cell phone use while driving as a primary offense. (It used to be a secondary offense, meaning police would need to stop the driver for another traffic violation to cite the hand-held cellphone use). Now, Maryland police officers may pull a driver over if they observe them talking on a hand-held cell phone, with no other traffic violation taking place. The ticket for a first offense is $83, with fines increasing for subsequent violations.
The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration estimates that more than 30,000 people in Maryland are injured every year due to distracted driving crashes. Texting while driving in Maryland has been illegal for some years now, so banning the use of hand-held cell phones is a natural progression in public safety law.
Maryland is one of 12 states plus Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands to make its hand-held cell phone law a primary offense. Drivers are allowed to talk using hands-free cell phone devices, such as headset and Bluetooth systems. No states ban all uses of cellphones while driving.
Buckling up the seat belts comes as second nature for smart drivers and their passengers in Maryland. Most newer cars have a warning beep that goes off if you don’t buckle your seat belt. Unfortunately, there are still too many people — including young, novice drivers and their passengers — who fail to use their seat belts.
As of October 2013, failure to wear a seat belt in Maryland is now a primary offense for drivers and front seat passengers, and a secondary offense for back seat passengers. The newly restrictive Maryland Seat Belt Law (TR 22–412.3) comes with an $83 fine per person caught not wearing their seat belt. Drivers may receive additional fines if they are caught with passengers in the vehicle under age 16 who are not buckled up.
Maryland is one of 33 states and the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands with a primary offense seat belt law for drivers on their books.
Maryland car accident lawyers like us know that traffic safety laws, when combined with law enforcement and education, help save lives. There will still be drivers who disregard the laws, putting themselves, their passengers and other motorists at risk if an accident occurs. Tougher laws may, however, serve as a deterrent to some Maryland drivers, who would rather put down their cell phones and buckle their seat belts than face a hefty fine.
Related Maryland Car Accident Attorney articles:
More Drivers Admit to Web Surfing While Behind the Wheel (Nov. 2013)
Maryland Seeks to Add More Teeth to Distracted Driver Laws (May 2012)
Maryland’s New Cell Phone and Seat Belt Laws (PDF)
Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration Oct. 2013
Maryland Highway Safety Laws
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Jan. 2014
Distracted Driving Laws
Seat Belt Laws
Governors Highway Safety Administration Jan. 2014