Friday, October 11, 2013

Maryland's New Distracted Driving Law

                On October 1, 2013, Maryland’s new “distracted driving” law went into effect.  The law (Md. Transportation Article §21-1124.2) promotes “use of handheld telephone while driving” from a “secondary offense” to a “primary offense.”  The critical difference between the two being that a police officer may not affect a traffic stop based solely on a secondary offense (e.g. even if the cop sees you doing it, so long as you aren’t doing anything else wrong, he can’t stop you).  A police officer may affect a traffic stop for a primary offense.

                Practically, what does that mean?  First, it means you can be stopped and ticketed if a cop sees you driving while chatting, texting, or updating your status while driving.  The penalty will be a small fine for first-time offenders, with penalties increasing dramatically for subsequent offenses.  Second, it means the police will have ample more opportunities to stop you.  And once stopped, the police will run a warrant check, verify that your driving privileges are not suspended or revoked, and potentially search your vehicle (either by consent or otherwise).

                What should you do?  Stop using the phone while you’re driving.  ESPECIALLY if you have something you’d rather not share with the police—like that your license was revoked, that you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or that you’re transporting something illicit.  If you must use your phone while driving, be sure to have Young & Valkenet on speed-dial.