Maryland State Police to crack down on distracted driving

MDP distracted driving

Maryland State Police plan to aggressively ticket motorists who are caught using their cellphones or doing other things that pull their attention from the roadway.  Capt. Michael Fluharty, commander of the state police barracks in Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington counties, said troopers are going to work overtime to look for people who are breaking distracted-driving laws, such as using their cellphones, putting on makeup and reading maps.  "We don't like to write the tickets," he said.  "But it's the best way to get the message across."  He said the tickets will cost $83.  The initiative started across the state on Saturday to kick off Distracted Driving Month.  Fluharty said motorists still will be allowed to change radio stations and speak on their cellphones via Bluetooth.  He said the push against distracted driving is timely, considering 13 senior citizens were killed in Texas last week when their church bus was struck by a driver who a witness alleged was texting.  It has been estimated that a person texting takes his or her eyes off the road for an average of five seconds.  That is like covering the length of a football field while driving blindfolded at 55 mph, according to a state police news release.  Motorists often are unaware that diverting their attention from the road can unconsciously lead to unsafe driving behavior, such as failure to drive in a single lane, following too closely or failing to reduce speed to avoid a crash.  Drivers should eliminate any activity while driving that diverts their eyes from the roadway, their hands from the steering wheel or their awareness of the traffic conditions around them, the release said.  The Maryland Highway Safety Office determined that distracted driving causes crashes that result in more than 31,100 injuries across the state each year.  Under Maryland law, also known as Jake’s Law, a driver causing serious injury or death while talking on a handheld cellphone or texting could receive up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.  These are primary offenses, and police officers can stop drivers when those activities are observed, regardless of the presence of other violations.  How to prevent distracted driving as a passenger: Request that the driver put down the cellphone while behind the wheel.  Offer to send a text or make a call for the driver, so he or she can focus on the road.  Offer to help watch the road.  As a parent:  Be a good role model and practice what you preach.   Do not call or text your child if you know he or she might be driving.  As a driver:  Turn off your cellphone while you are driving.  Pull off to the side of the road to send a text or make a cellphone call.  If you think you will be tempted to check your cellphone, avoid the temptation by putting it in the trunk or the back seat.