The smallest distraction can lead to a car accident.
In these moments, you might not notice other vehicles and objects in front of you.
In these moments, you endanger yourself and others around you.
Now, the State of Maryland tries to counter that by placing distracted driving laws.
And we’re here to tell you everything you should know about these laws.
This is why, today, we’re going to walk you through the laws, the penalties, and other forms of distracted driving, as well as some frequently asked questions.
So let’s dive right in!
Distracted Driving Laws in Maryland
To be sure, there are all kinds of distractions when driving — even just daydreaming can take your focus off the road ahead.
However, when it comes to the law, Maryland only implements two distracted driving laws. These are:
- Cell phone law
- Earphone law
Let’s look at these laws in detail.
Maryland Cell Phone Laws
One of the biggest distractions today is the use of cell phones.
Cell phones are dangerous as it removes your eyes from the road, your hands from the steering wheel, and your mind from the task of driving.
It’s no surprise then that Maryland prohibits the use of cell phones when behind the wheel.
That said, you can use your phone if, and only if, it is hands-free.
Even so, here are some reminders if you plan on using a hands-free phone while driving:
- As much as possible, only answer calls that need immediate attention. If you are with someone else, let them take the call for you.
- Keep the calls brief, so you can focus on your driving.
- If you need to respond to messages and take long calls, pull over in a safe place.
- Set up your car’s playlist and connect other devices you need to connect before you start driving.
IMPORTANT! Those below 18 years old are NOT allowed to use both hand-held and hands-free phones while operating a motor vehicle. They can only use it for emergencies, such as reporting a crime, calling for an ambulance, etc.
Maryland Earphone Laws
As for the Maryland earphone law, it states that…
“Drivers are prohibited from using earphones, headsets, and other devices that cover their ears while driving.”
Well, earphones are a sort of distraction. With them, you can’t hear what’s happening on the road such as honks, ambulances incoming, vehicles speeding, etc.
Plus, the loud music might just take your focus off the road — and we don’t want that.
Distracted Driving Penalties in Maryland
If you are caught using your phone, then you will face penalties. Now, the penalty depends on several factors.
Here are the penalties for using a hand-held phone:
- First violation: $75 fine
- Second violation: $125 fine
- Third and subsequent violations: $175
And here are the penalties if you are spotted texting while driving:
- If no crash occurs: $70 fine and 1 point added to your driver’s license
- If a crash occurs: $110 fine and 3 points added to your driver’s license
Under Jake’s Law, anyone that causes death due to distracted driving will be fined up to $5,000 and sentenced to prison for 3 years.
This penalty was created and passed in Maryland when a 5-year-old child named Jake Owen was killed in a car accident caused by a distracted driver in 2011.
Other Forms of Distracted Driving
Even if the law only prohibits 2 distractions — the use of cell phones and earphones — the State of Maryland still discourages any type of distracted driving.
They identify 4 types of distractions, namely:
Anything that takes your eyes off the road, your mind off your driving task, your hands off the steering wheel, and your hearing of the traffic is a big NO.
To help you, here’s a list of other distracted driving behaviors that you should avoid:
- Eating and driving
- Putting on makeup
- Having an argument
- Attending to children and pets
- Getting something inside your bag
- Listening to loud music
- Reading billboards
- And so much more!
Frequently Asked Questions
Still got some questions about distracted driving in Maryland? Then let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions about it.
Can you talk on the phone while driving in Maryland?
Yes, you can take hands-free phone calls. However, make sure you keep them brief and that you can focus on the road ahead.
The word to remember here is hands-free. If you are seen holding your phone while driving, then you will be asked to pull over by the traffic enforcer.
Is eating while driving illegal in Maryland?
No, there is no law that states it’s illegal to eat while driving in Maryland. But, eating requires you to take your hands off the steering wheel, and, as we saw, that is a form of distracted driving.
So although it is not illegal, it should be avoided at all times.
Can you drive barefoot in Maryland?
Yes, you can. Again, there are no laws or regulations that prohibit driving barefoot. As long as you can drive properly and keep focused, then this should be fine.
Can you text at a stoplight in Maryland?
As the law states, “you cannot use a cell phone when behind the wheel.” So no, you cannot even use it when at a stoplight. You are only allowed to hold your phone if you are fully parked.
How can I avoid distracted driving?
To be sure, it can be a bit hard to avoid distracted driving, especially if you’re so used to the task and roads.
But if you’re looking for ways to get rid of distractions, make sure you put it on your mind to try as much as possible to stay focused.
Also, always do what you need to do before you go behind the wheel. So if you need to send that text or call that person, do so. If you need to eat, then eat before going out. If you need to pee, then go find a bathroom instead of holding it in.
And that was everything you needed to know about the distracted driving laws in Maryland.
Sadly, distracted driving laws are usually neglected by drivers until they get caught or an accident happens.
Don’t wait for that.
Always make sure that you are a safe and responsible driver.