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Distracted Driving Laws in Maryland

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The State of Maryland recognizes that using a cell phone or similar handheld devices while driving can increase the risk of a car accident. Often referred to as distracted driving, Maryland law prohibits the use of these mobile devices in many driving situations. In order to gain a full appreciation of this issue, the following sections will examine the laws, exceptions and penalties for distracted driving in Maryland.

What are the Distracted Driving Laws in Maryland?

Under Maryland Transportation Code Section 21–1124.1, it is unlawful for drivers to write, send or read texts or other electronic messages. So long as the vehicle is engaged in travel, the driver must refrain from text messaging and other electronic communication.

Under Maryland Transportation Code Section 21–1124.2, it is unlawful for drivers to use their hands to operate a cell phone while driving. While the vehicle is in motion, drivers are only allowed to use their hands to:

  • Initiate a call;
  • Terminate a call;
  • Power on the device; or
  • Power off the device.

That being said, drivers can avoid many distracted driving penalties by using a hands-free device. These devices allow the driver to operate their cell phone without taking their hands off the wheel or eyes off the road. Consequently, Maryland does permit drivers to use cell phones in a hands-free capacity while driving.

Are there Exceptions to Distracted Driving Laws in Maryland?

In short, yes, there are several important exceptions to Maryland’s distracted driving laws. First and foremost, all drivers are allowed to use their cell phone to make emergency calls to:

  • 911 operators;
  • Hospitals;
  • Ambulance or paramedic services;
  • Fire departments;
  • Law enforcement agencies; and
  • First aid teams.

Additionally, law enforcement officers and emergency personnel are exempt from distracted driving rules. But this exemption only applies when they are acting in the scope of their official duties.

What are the Penalties for Distracted Driving in Maryland?

Under Section 21–1124.2, distracted driving is generally a minor offense, punishable only by fines. The penalty structure is as follows:

  • First Offense — May result in a maximum fine of $75;
  • Second Offense — May result in a maximum fine of $125; and
  • Third or Subsequent Offense — May result in a maximum fine of $175.

That being said, the Maryland courts have discretion to waive the penalty entirely for first-time offenders.

Furthermore, there are special penalties for severe distracted driving incidents under Maryland Transportation Code Section 21–1124.3. If the distracted driver seriously injures or kills another person, Section 21-1124.3 institutes a maximum penalty of 12 months in prison and $5,000 in fines.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you have legal questions about distracted driving in Maryland, it can be highly beneficial to consult with a dependable criminal defense attorney.  The attorneys at Iamele & Iamele, LLP in Baltimore, Maryland, have widespread knowledge and skill in the field of criminal defense, including distracted driving. If you need legal help, contact us today for a free initial consultation.

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