February 26, 2024
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Phone Down. Eyes Up. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

The Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration’s Highway Safety Office is joining the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in recognizing April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and is partnering with state and local law enforcement agencies to encourage motorists to Be the Focused Driver and focus on their only task when they’re behind the wheel: driving.

“Every day, we see drivers using their cellphones, which contributes to far too many injuries and fatal crashes,” said Motor Vehicle Administrator Chrissy Nizer, who also serves as Governor Wes Moore’s Highway Safety Representative. “Whether the driver or passenger, we each play a role to avoid distracting behavior and keep our roads safe.”

Each year, distracted driving contributes to an average of more than 24,000 injuries and 200 fatalities on Maryland roads. While phone use is a leading cause of distracted driving, there are other interruptions that can be just as harmful, such as eating, applying makeup, changing the radio station or tending to other passengers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. When driving at 55 mph, those five seconds equate to traveling the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

In Maryland, fines for using a handheld cellphone while driving are $83 for the first offense, $140 for a second offense and $160 for a third offense. Writing, sending or reading a text or electronic message while driving can result in a $70 fine and one point on the driver’s record. These penalties increase if the use of a device contributes to a crash, serious injury or death.

The Highway Safety Office reminds state drivers to remember the following tips:

  • Serve as an example for your family and friends by avoiding distractions while driving.
  • Pull away from travel lanes and park in a safe location if you need to send a text message. Never stop on the side of a highway.
  • Designate a passenger to respond to any messages while you are behind the wheel.
  • Keep our police and other emergency responders safe. Maryland’s Move Over Law requires motorists to move over one lane or slow down when approaching any stopped emergency vehicle of any vehicle displaying warning signals such as hazard lights, road flares or caution signals.
  • Save social media for later. Do not scroll or engage in social media while driving.
  • Keep your cellphone out of reach – such as in the glove box, back seat or trunk – if you are tempted to use it when driving.
  • Speak up. If your friends or family use their cellphones while driving, ask them to stop.

During April, more than 40 law enforcement agencies statewide will increase enforcement of distracted driving laws. Participating agencies include Maryland State Police, Maryland Natural Resources Police and Maryland Transportation Authority Police, as well as the following local agencies:

Allegany County Sheriff’s OfficeAnne Arundel County Police DepartmentBaltimore City Police DepartmentBaltimore County Police DepartmentBelair Police DepartmentBerlin Police DepartmentBowie Police DepartmentCalvert County Sheriff’s OfficeCarroll County Sheriff’s OfficeCecil County Sheriff’s OfficeCharles County Sheriff’s OfficeChestertown Police DepartmentEaston Police DepartmentElkton Police DepartmentFrederick County Sheriff’s OfficeFrederick Police DepartmentFrostburg Police DepartmentFruitland Police DepartmentGarrett County Sheriff’s OfficeHampstead Police DepartmentHarford County Sheriff’s OfficeHavre De Grace Police DepartmentHoward County Police DepartmentHyattsville Police DepartmentLaurel Police DepartmentMaryland Natural Resources Police DepartmentMontgomery County Police DepartmentOcean Pines Police DepartmentPrince Georges County Police DepartmentPrincess Anne Police DepartmentQueen Anne’s County Police DepartmentRiverdale Police DepartmentRockville Police DepartmentSalisbury Police DepartmentSalisbury University Police DepartmentSeat Pleasant Police DepartmentSomerset County Police DepartmentSt Mary’s County Sheriff’s OfficeSykesville Police DepartmentTakoma Park Police DepartmentTalbot County Sheriff’s OfficeTaneytown Police DepartmentUniversity of MD College Park Police DepartmentWashington County Sheriff’s OfficeWicomico County Police DepartmentWorcester County Police Department

Learn more about the Motor Vehicle Administration’s Highway Safety Office commitment to zero deaths on Maryland roadways at ZeroDeathsMD.gov and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at zerodeathsmd.

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