New Law Prohibits Using a Text Messaging Device While Operating a Motor Vehicle
(Sept. 29, 2009) Beginning October 1, texting while driving can cost drivers a fine of up to $500. One of several new laws passed by the 2009 Maryland General Assembly, the goal of Senate Bill 98/House Bill 72 is to prevent crashes and save lives, according to the State Highway Administration.
The law, also known as the Delegate John Arnick Electronic Communications Traffic Safety Act, prohibits a person from using a text messaging device to write or send a text message while operating a motor vehicle in motion or in the travel portion of a roadway. The law makes the activity a misdemeanor crime with the potential of a civil penalty to be imposed and a fine of not more than $500 if convicted.
Safe driving can reduce the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities on our roads, said SHA Administrator and the Governors Highway Safety Representative, Neil J. Pedersen. Every one of us has a responsibility to drive safely and taking your eyes off of the road to text is a recipe for disaster.
In a recent Zogby International poll, 66 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds said they have driven while text messaging. More specific to Maryland, nearly 20,000 people are injured annually in crashes related to inattentive driving and 38 percent of all traffic injuries in Maryland involve an inattentive driver. Research indicates texting while driving can have a similar effect on reaction time as driving impaired with a .16 percent Blood Alcohol Content, says the SHA.
Senate Bill 098/House Bill 0072 was sponsored by Senators Norman R. Stone, Jennie M. Forehand, Jamie Raskin and Mike Lenett and Delegates Frank S. Turner and Jeff Waldstreicher.
Text messaging has become increasingly popular in the past several years. While there had been little information about the connection between text messaging and crashes, new studies are linking the two, primarily through driver distraction, says the SHA. Text messaging shares many of the same mental functions and causes similar distractions as those associated with the use of cell phones, though the need to focus on typing and reading is greater than talking on a phone and therefore equally, if not more, unsafe.