The dangers of drinking and driving are well known, but many Maryland residents remain unaware of the hazards related to cell phone use behind the wheel. Texting while driving can be every bit as dangerous as drunk driving. Even a mere cell phone conversation while operating a vehicle can prove dangerous.

A variety of Maryland laws currently limit the use of cell phones behind the wheel. The goal is to reduce distracted driving accidents as well as the many injuries and fatalities caused by inattentive drivers. A thorough understanding of the state's current cell phones laws can prevent traffic citations and, more importantly, save lives.

Maryland's Ban On Texting While Driving

Texting behind the wheel is one of the biggest impediments to driver safety. According to the Cohen Children's Medical Center, texting while driving is responsible for a shocking nationwide 3,000 teen deaths every year. (1) In an effort to address the hazards of texting while on the road, the Maryland Senate has approved stricter measures surrounding texting while driving. The new law targets those responsible for the injury or death of others due to their negligent driving practices. If an accident involving texting results in serious injury or death, the perpetrator may face a fine of up to $5,000, as well as several years behind bars. (2)

Handheld Cell Phone Driving Law

Perhaps the most controversial of the current Maryland cell phone laws is a blanket ban on all use of handheld cell phones behind the wheel. An update to this law went into effect in late 2013, allowing law enforcement officers to pull over any drivers they witnessed using handheld devices while driving. A previous 2010 law had banned cell phone calls but designated them a secondary offense. Now, the use of a handheld cell phone while driving is deemed a primary offense.

Critics believe that Maryland's updated cell phone law is still not harsh enough; currently, the penalty for the first offense is a mere $83 fine, with the fee for a second offense increasing to $140. (3) Other critics have complained about the ban's targeting of handheld devices, arguing that, according to recent research, the use of hands-free phones behind the wheel is every bit as dangerous.

Exceptions To Maryland Cell Phone Laws

The use of cell phones while driving may be permitted in certain situations. Drivers are still allowed to use hands-free cell phones, although, given recent concerns about the safety of these devices, a ban may be forthcoming. Handheld phones may also be used in emergency situations. According to the Maryland Department of Transportation, drivers are exempted from Maryland cell phone laws if they are forced to call the police, the fire department or an ambulance. Likewise, Maryland's blanket ban on texting while driving does not apply to emergency texts.

Although a select group of critics believe that Maryland's texting and cell phone laws are unnecessarily harsh, these regulations are necessary for the safety of all drivers and passengers. By resisting the urge to use cell phones on the road, drivers can greatly reduce the likelihood of crashes while also preventing traffic citations.