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Countdown to Crackdown: Driving While on Phone Means Stiffer Fines in Maryland

Not “parking the phone” becomes a primary offense and fines go up Oct. 1.

Patch file photo
Patch file photo

By Susan Jenkins

How often do you see someone driving while holding a cell phone and talking? A new law could make it easier for police to enforce and issue fines for this form of distracted driving.

Existing law prohibits Maryland drivers from using a cell phone without a hands-free device but drivers can only be ticketed for phone use after being pulled over for another violation.

Starting Oct. 1, Maryland police can stop and fine motorists for using their hand-held cell phones while driving even if they’re doing nothing else wrong. This is because the new law approved on May 16 classifies hand-held cell phone use as a primary offense.

Maryland isn’t the first state to to fine drivers for using their cell phones while driving in the absence of another traffic violation. There are nine other states and the District of Columbia with similar guidelines.

Fines for first-time violators will increase from $40 to $75. Drivers will face fines of $125 for a second offense and $175 for the third time. No points will be assessed against drivers unless the phone use contributes to an accident.

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