In Maryland, as around the rest of the country, text messaging has become a favorite pastime for many. But victims of traffic accidents know that “texting” is actually a big problem. Auto accident experts and politicians alike are suggesting that cell phone texting could be the drunk driving of the 21st Century. Already banned in neighboring states, text messaging while driving will soon be against the law Maryland beginning October 1, 2009.
In our Maryland auto accident law office, we have seen the results of driver inattention in terms of personal injury and traffic fatalities. Much like driving while intoxicated, which results in impaired judgment and reduced reaction time, texting can be just as dangerous since the activity can cause a driver to be highly distracted. Extremely common among young drivers — a study last year by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that about half of drivers ages 18 to 24 said they texted behind the wheel at least occasionally — text messaging is becoming more and more popular. And this is worrying.
Maryland’s anti-texting law will make the activity a misdemeanor crime of driving while using a text messaging device to write or send a text while operating a motor vehicle in the travel portion of the roadway. A civil penalty will be imposed and a fine of not more than $500 can be enforced if convicted.
With many instances of injury accidents and traffic fatalities attributable to driver inattention, the use of cell phones, and texting in particular, was apparently the next big problem to impact safety on Maryland’s highways and byways. In fact, a 2003 Harvard Center for Risk Analysis study found that cell phone use while driving contributed to six percent of crashes and some 2,600 deaths each year. Those figures are sure to have risen during the intervening six years.
Our advice is to avoid using your cell phone while driving and definitely do not text if you are operating a vehicle in traffic. With the increase in the number of smart phones coming on the market, any effort to reduce distractions behind the wheel will improve everyone’s chances of arriving at their next destination alive and well. But if you choose not to heed this suggestion, Maryland’s new texting while driving law may just net you a hefty fine in the future.
Fines Up to $500 if Caught Texting While Driving, TheBayNet.com, July 3, 2009