Should Maryland Laws Banning Cell Phone Use While Driving Get Even Tougher?

Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made a bold recommendation — one that urges states to take another look at their driving laws and has the driving public talking about individual rights versus public safety.

In the wake of several fatal distracted driving traffic accidents, the NTSB proposed an all-out, nationwide ban on talking and texting on cell phones while driving. That would mean no talking on either hand-held or hands-free cell phones and no texting, for any drivers of any age, except in the case of an emergency.

The NTSB recommendation came following examination of a 2010 case in Missouri, where a young man who had reportedly been texting for several minutes crashed his pickup truck into a commercial truck that had slowed down for road construction — setting in motion a chain reaction crash that involved two school buses. The pickup truck driver and a teenage passenger on one of the buses were killed, and close to 40 people were injured, some seriously.

Traffic safety advocates remind consumers that until recently, cell phones weren’t even invented. However consumers today expect all the comforts and conveniences of home and office to travel with them when they get behind the wheel. Today’s cars, trucks, and SUVs can come outfitted with GPS devices, in-car computers, DVD and MP3 players, satellite radios, and a host of other high-tech gadgetry. This makes your father’s distracted driving — eating a sandwich or fiddling with the radio — seem rather primitive by comparison.

The NTSB asserts that cell phones and other hand-held devices have become a serious and deadly driving distraction, added on top of other risky distracted driving behaviors. As experienced Baltimore County, Maryland car accident injury attorneys, we’d agree with that statement. Driving on Maryland highways, city streets, and back roads is challenging enough without cell phones and texting in the mix.

Maryland Bans on Cell Phone Use and Texting While Driving
Maryland actually has some of the more restrictive laws in the country when it comes to cell phone usage and driving. Texting is outright banned for all drivers in Maryland, as is the use of hand-held cell phones. All cell phones are banned for novice drivers (under 18). However the all-cellphone ban does not, at this time, extend to school bus drivers in Md.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the Maryland “…General Assembly expanded its ban on texting to include reading them and not just writing them.” However at this time, cell phone infractions are regarded in Maryland as secondary offenses — that is, police cannot stop and ticket drivers for using cell phones as the primary offense. They can only do so if stopping motorists for some other primary offense. Time will tell if Maryland driving laws regarding cell phone use will become even stricter.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates some 4,000 traffic deaths occurred in the U.S. last year due to some form of distracted driving, including cell phone use and texting. Individual states must now decide how much weight to put on the NTSB’s recommendation.

Related Maryland Injury Attorney article:

Baltimore County Democrat Pushing Maryland Bill to Toughen Distracted Driving Law (Feb. 2011)

Sources:

The NTSB’s call for action
The Baltimore Sun Dec. 14, 2011
NTSB urges nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving
The Washington Post Dec. 13, 2011
Related Web Resources:

Governors Highway Safety Administration Dec. 2011:
Cell Phone Laws by State
Maryland Highway Safety Laws

NTSB: Highway Accident Report : Collision Involving Two School Buses