On October 10, 2010, a new Maryland law took effect forbidding the use of handheld telephones while driving. The violation is a secondary offense, so a driver in violation can only be pulled over or ticketed if he or she also committed another, primary offense like breaking the speed limit, failing to observe a traffic light or driving recklessly.
Some speculate that the legislature will ultimately make it a primary offense.
Despite being a secondary offense, Maryland law enforcement personnel wrote many tickets for the violation in its first year of existence, according to the Claims Journal. Opponents of the ban see it as an unjustified invasion of a person's private life.
While holding a phone is prohibited behind the wheel, hands-free devices are still allowed, despite that some level of distraction must come from conversing even when both hands are on the wheel. Emergency calls are also exempt from the ban, as are the use of handheld devices by law enforcement or emergency personnel while on duty.
The first violation of the cell-phone-while-driving ban calls for a $40 fine and subsequent violations bring $100 fines. A first offense does not add points to the driver's record except when the behavior contributes to a crash.
For drivers under age 18 with permits or provisional licenses, both handheld and hands-free wireless devices to talk or text are banned while driving, except for emergency calls. For these younger drivers this violation is also a secondary one. This violation may result in a license suspension up to 90 days with the possibility of a limited driving allowance to get to work or school, or for use during work.
Maryland law also prohibits writing, sending or reading text or e-mail messages while driving, except for emergency use. Global positioning systems are exempt from the texting ban.
The danger of driving while distracted by mobile-phone use is real. If you have been injured in a car accident and the other driver was talking on the phone, consult an experienced personal injury attorney about the impact of the telephone use on your potential lawsuit.