Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cell Phone Use While Driving: The Saga Continues

driving-talking-eating.jpgI am confused. Didn't the Maryland law that made texting while driving illegal also outlaw reading texts while driving?  Apparently not, a recent article I read in the Baltimore Sun cleared up my confusion.  There are actually quite a few nuances to Maryland cell phone laws currently on the books.  Here are a few of the strange quirks of the laws in effect, as of now:

  • Talking on your cell phone while driving is a secondary offense and you cannot be pulled over unless you are breaking some other law

  • Writing or sending messages while driving is prohibited (even if the driver is not breaking any other laws) but reading messages is not

  • A driver may talk on a cellular phone, if completely stopped in traffic, because the law only prohibits talking "while in motion" (considering that breaking any other law would be a neat trick while your car is not moving, this distinction seems pointless)

  • Texting while driving carries a maximum fine of $500 and one point while talking carries a maximum fine of $40 and no points (unless the driver contributes to an accident)

  • Exceptions exist for using a global positioning device or contacting emergency services


Now Maryland lawmakers are making an effort to make laws prohibiting cell phone use while driving more expansive.  This year's proposals include a ban on reading text or emails while driving and giving the police the ability to pull someone over for talking on the phone even if the driver is not breaking any other laws.  Maryland is one of only five of the thirty states with cell phone restriction laws that still allow the reading of texts while driving.  Most legislators involved with the new proposals believe that the reading ban is likely to become law.  However, making talking on the cell phone a primary offense is probably not likely.

The ban of talking on the cell phone passed by only one vote last year.  Those opposed to the law cited all of the other activities which distract drivers and the existence of reckless driving laws.  One Montgomery County Democrat, who voted against the law last year, listed putting on makeup, eating, and reading the newspaper as activities that are just as dangerous.  Putting on makeup and READING THE NEWSPAPER while driving are extremely dangerous but relatively uncommon, while everybody has a cell phone.  However, eating an occasional double cheeseburger and/or four piece nugget while driving is a fundamental right and a liberty interest that should be protected. 

In all seriousness, driving while writing or reading a text is extremely dangerous and is a constant threat to other drivers. In fact, our litigation department now asks, as a standard question, for a copy of the defendant's cell phone records for the date and time of the accident in question. If you were involved in an accident that you believe was caused by cell phone use, contact the Maryland accident lawyers at Portner & Shure.

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