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Distracted Driving and Cell Phone Usage in Maryland| Is it Reckless?

Posted on: November 5, 2012

Distracted Driving on the Rise

  • Distracted driving accidents most frequently occur when a negligent driver improperly diverts his attention from the roadway towards something else. The most common causes of distracted driving accidents involve people talking on cell phones, sending text messages or otherwise, simply failing to pay proper time and attention to the conditions in the roadway. Many of our clients have suffered serious injuries including fractures and permanent injuries due to the actions of distracted negligent drivers. This is why we think it is important to educate people regarding recent changes in the law that affect drivers in Maryland.

Distracted Driving Laws in Maryland

  • Starting in 2009, and with the recent rise of rampant cell phone use while driving, Maryland passed a law that prohibits an individual from writing or sending a text message while operating a motor vehicle or in the travel portion of the highway. The crime is a misdemeanor.
  • Then, in 2010, a new law was passed in Maryland to prohibit Maryland drivers from using a cell phone without a hands-free device while operating a motor vehicle. The 2010 revisions to the law were more exhaustive and even prohibit persons holding learner’s permits or provisional driver’s licenses from driving a motor vehicle while using a handheld telephone. At this time, both laws were considered as secondary offenses. In other words, a driver in 2020 must have first been committing a primary offense, such as speeding or reckless driving, before they could be ticketed for the cell phone offense.
  • In October 1, 2011, the law was updated so that even driver’s reading a text message or an e-mail could be fined. This law clarifies the previous law that just prevented drivers from writing text messages while driving but did not address reading the text messages. The law still provides an exception for drivers who are texting emergency operators or using phone GPS systems.

Current prohibitions:

  • Text messaging prohibited for all drivers.
  • Handheld cell phone use banned for all drivers. Fines between $40 and $100.
  • Drivers under the age of 18 prohibited from any use of cell phones.

Distracted Driving Might Be Reckless Driving

The Maryland Code defines Reckless and negligent driving as follows:

§ 21-901.1. Reckless and negligent driving.

(a) Reckless driving.- A person is guilty of reckless driving if he drives a motor vehicle:

(1) In wanton or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property; or

(2) In a manner that indicates a wanton or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property.

(b) Negligent driving.- A person is guilty of negligent driving if he drives a motor vehicle in a careless or imprudent manner that endangers any property or the life or person of any individual.

Whether a person’s usage of a cell phone, (or other driving behavior) is considered reckless, is usually a determination that must be made by a judge or jury when the facts of the particular case are applied.

We urge that drivers keep these laws in mind when driving. There are so many other distractions on the road and other driver’s actions that can lead to accidents, such a speeding, reckless driving, and driving while under the influence. Making an effort to eliminate cell phone use and texting will keep the roads safer for everyone else. If you have been injured by a reckless driver, call us today for a free legal consultation.

Please note: The purpose of a blog on the Sites is to facilitate a general informational dialogue on various business and legal issues. Any opinions expressed by authors on the sites, belong solely to those authors and are not indicative of Bob Katz or Gordon Feinblatt’s opinions. Any information provided is NOT legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Anyone providing endorsements or testimonials should disclose his/her relationship with, and if any incentives, free services or other compensation was received from, Gordon Feinblatt. Although Gordon Feinblatt has no obligation to monitor activities, communications or submissions made through the interactive portions of the Sites, it has the right to refuse to post, remove and/or edit anything posted to or through the Sites at any time in its sole and exclusive discretion without liability to participants, visitors, posters or users of the Sites.

Justin Katz is a personal injury lawyer who represents injury victims in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC
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