Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Secretary Pete K. Rahn kicked off Distracted Driving Awareness Month with a piece of advice that could save hundreds of lives each year across the state: “Park your phone before you drive.”
“It’s critical that drivers pay full attention behind the wheel,” said Secretary Rahn. “Distracted driving is easily prevented, and doing so will save hundreds of lives each year.”
Each year in Maryland, distracted driving plays a role in 185 traffic deaths and more than 27,000 injuries. Potentially deadly distractions include tending to children, shaving, putting on makeup, and reading, but using cell phones or other electronic devices is especially distracting. A typical text takes five seconds to write and send. In five seconds, a car traveling at 55 mph will travel the length of a football field. With your attention off the road, it’s like driving that distance while blindfolded.
“Texting or using your phone while driving is extremely dangerous. You’re up to 23 times more likely to crash, putting lives in jeopardy,” said MDOT Motor Vehicle Administrator (MVA) and Governor Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative, Christine Nizer. “Put your phone away, and make sure you stay focused.”
Drivers can be ticketed for writing, sending, or reading a text or electronic message while driving. The fine is $70 and one point on your license and may increase to $110 and three points if use of the device contributes to a crash. Fines for using a handheld cell phone are $83 for the first offense, $140 for the second offense, and $160 for the third offense. Under Jake’s Law, any driver who causes serious injury or death while using a handheld cell phone or texting may receive a prison sentence of up to three years and a fine of up to $5,000.
MDOT’s Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) Police are playing a vital role in statewide enforcement efforts. Other partners, including the Maryland State Police and numerous local and county agencies, are supporting the “Park the Phone” initiative as well.
MDTA Police Chief Col. Jerry Jones warned motorists: “We are serious about eliminating distracted driving. If you have a phone in one hand while driving, expect to get a ticket in the other. Lives are on the line.”
The enforcement effort will complement a month-long, statewide media effort. Messages will be broadcast on radio stations and will be seen on social media, websites, and billboards. In addition, MDOT will have overhead message signs along major roadways with the following message:
PARK THE PHONE
BEFORE YOU DRIVE
IT CAN WAIT