Maryland’s cell phone laws prohibit the use of hand-held cellphones and texting while driving. Despite these strict laws, we still see plenty of people talking on their phones and texting while driving. And that’s not all. Distracted driving includes anything taking the driver’s attention off the road, including eating; reading a book or newspaper; adjusting onboard infotainment systems; shaving, putting on makeup, and other act of personal grooming; attending to pets and children; and a host of other distracting activities.
Today’s modern vehicles have all the comforts and conveniences of home and office. Unfortunately, all these distractions can lead to auto accidents that could have been prevented.
Zero Deaths Maryland reports 115,916 Maryland traffic accidents in 2019, with 32,918 injury crashes and 48,656 people injured in those accidents. The group also reported 82,503 property damage crashes in 2019. With all the ways drivers can be distracted in their automobiles, it’s no surprise to learn that distracted driving is among the top causes of auto accidents in Maryland. While not the sole cause of accidents with injury and death on our roadways, distracted driving is at the top. The latest data from Zero Deaths Maryland shows…
- Distracted driving caused more than 55,000 crashes yearly on average on Maryland roads and highways from 2015 to 2019.
- Aggressive drivers are involved in an average of 4,195 crashes on Maryland roads each year. Aggressive driving includes speeding, tailgating, road rage, drag racing, and other highly dangerous driving behaviors.
- While only 5.9 percent of crashes on average involved a driver impaired by drugs or alcohol from 2015 to 2019, driver impairment was a factor in nearly one-third (32.2 percent) of all fatal crashes during that time period.
- Though Maryland’s annual seat belt use rate typically exceeds 90 percent, too many of our citizens are dying due to failure to buckle up: From 2015 to 2019, an average of more than 2,300 unbelted passenger vehicle occupants were injured or killed in automobile crashes in Maryland.
A ticket for first offense distracted driving in Maryland starts at $83 — and that’s if you’re lucky enough not to strike another vehicle or pedestrian. Distracted driving causing injury or death in Maryland comes with heavy fines and the possibility of jail time. The 2014 passage of Jake’s Law in Maryland toughened the penalties for distracted driving that leads to an automobile accident causing injury or death — including up to three years in jail, a $5,000 fine, and 12 points added to one’s Maryland driver’s license, which could lead to license suspension.
And an accident can literally happen in the blink of an eye: Zero Deaths Maryland reports that at 55 mph, a text message that takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds is like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. Stop to consider that for a minute.
The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration reports that last year, more than 500 lives were lost on Maryland roads and highways. Despite people driving less during the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic accident rates have actually gone up nationwide and in our state. While we’re all busy with the tasks and activities that fill up our days … no phone call, text message, or email is worth someone’s life. All of it can wait until your car is safely put in park.
Zero Deaths Maryland, Maryland Highway Safety Office, Annual Report 2020.
Zero Deaths Maryland, Distracted Driving
Maryland Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Administration, Safety on Maryland Roads