Cell phones are one of the biggest causes of distracted driving. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. Over the past five years in Maryland, there have been nearly 26,000 injuries and 200 deaths annually from distracted driving crashes. Every one of those injuries and fatalities were preventable – we must do better! Buckle up and put your phone down before you start the car. If you can’t resist the urge to check your latest text message, store the phone out of reach or install an autoresponder to silence notifications and alert senders you are driving. Not only is it safer, it’s also the law in Maryland.

Let’s take a closer look at Maryland cell phone laws and what they mean.

Maryland Cell Phone Laws

Talking on a Cell Phone

It’s illegal for you to use a handheld phone for phone conversations while driving. Hands-free calls can be made, but talking on your phone while holding it is a primary offense. This means that if officers see you making a call while driving, they can pull you over in the absence of other violations. These laws do not apply to police officers or emergency personnel if calls are made in an official capacity. For all others, only emergency calls are acceptable. For example, it’s OK if you’re calling 9-1-1, the police, the hospital, or the fire department for help.

Otherwise, the fines in Maryland include:

  • First violation = $83 fine, including court costs;
  • Second violation = $140 fine, including court costs; and
  • Third violation and beyond = $160 fine, including court costs.

Drivers under 18 may not use any “wireless communication device” while driving, except to call 9-1-1. Doing so is a primary offence and may result in up to a 90-day suspension of learners permit or provisional driver’s license.

In addition to these penalties, drivers of all ages may have points assessed against their license if it is determined they caused a crash while committing a cell phone or texting violation.

Texting While Driving

Reading, writing, or sending texts while driving is also illegal.  If you’re driving, you must pull over and come to a complete stop before doing any of these things. The only legal exceptions are use of GPS and texting 9-1-1 for help.

Otherwise, this is a misdemeanor that comes with:

  • $70 fine, including court costs;
  • One point on your license; and
  • License suspension of up to 90 days if you are under 18.

If You Cause a Crash

If your cell phone or texting violation causes a crash, you’ll be subject to harsher penalties, including a $110 fine and three points on your license. You may also receive a reckless driving citation. If you injure or kill someone, you may receive a fine of up to $5,000 and up to three years in jail.  Depending on the circumstances, you could be charged with vehicular homicide.

Buckle Up, Phone Down

Using your phone for calls and texts is one of the most dangerous distractions while driving.  It takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel and your attention away from your surroundings. Therefore, penalties are becoming stricter for those who risk a peek at their phone. Get into the habit starting today: buckle up, phone down, every time you get behind the wheel. Be The FOCUSED Driver, Be The Driver Who Saves Lives.