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Maryland Expands Traffic Laws to Prohibit Handheld Phone Use

It was only last year when the state outlawed text messaging while driving, but Maryland has already tightened its reigns further by outlawing the use of handheld cell phones while driving. The new law went into effect last Friday, Oct. 1.

Police cannot pull drivers over for handheld use alone. In order to be punished for violating the new traffic law, a driver must have committed another traffic violation first. For example, if an officer pulls someone over for speeding and they notice that the driver was also talking on a phone without using a hands-free device, the officer can then cite that person for both traffic violations: speeding and using a handheld phone while driving.

Advocates for the new legislation are happy and confident that the hands-free law will better protect Maryland roads and save lives. They point to the statistic that more than one quarter of the fatal accidents that occur every year are connected to cell phone use behind the wheel. People’s bad habits need to change, they argue, and the law will push them toward safer driving behaviors.

Opponents of the restrictive cell phone legislation are tired of the government trying to tell everyone how they should behave. They think it is hypocritical to label cell phone use and texting while driving as illegal behaviors when other driving habits that could be just as dangerous are ignored. In regards to traffic violations and the required fines that follow, citizens are also suspicious that tickets are just another way for the state to make money.

A first violation of the new cell phone law costs $40, and further violations will cost $100. According to sources, one group is already profiting from the law: those who sell hands-free cell phone devices. When people are fined for a first offense, the state will give them a chance to skip the $40 fine – but only if they prove that they have purchased a hands-free device. Depending on how much those devices cost, a violation of the new law will cost drivers some of their hard-earned money.


Bloomberg Businessweek: Maryland bans holding cell phone while driving; Brian Witte, 9/28/2010


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