MD Enacts Hands-Free Cell Phone Law, Effective Oct. 1

If you live in the state of Maryland, your state is joining several others in the country by enacting a law banning the non-hands-free use of cell phones while driving.  The law, which goes into effect October 1st, 2010, was created to try and stem a certain form of distracted driving.  Read on for the details.

Starting October 1st, it will become a “secondary offense” to be caught driving without using a Bluetooth or wired headset.  Drivers who are caught face a fine of $40 the first time, and $100 on subsequent violations.  Drivers under the age of 18 are already banned from cell phone use while driving.

By setting up the new law as a “secondary offense,” the police can’t pull you over for just using the phone, but if you’re pulled over for speeding, negligent driving or other moving violations, they can tack the cell phone use on to your list of tickets.

It’s interesting that “negligent driving” shows up on the Maryland state government’s web site as a “primary offense,” since the police could actually use your cell phone use to make a case for negligent driving, giving you two tickets for the same thing.

There are three ways to avoid the fines.  Wired or wireless devices, including Bluetooth headsets are one.  Your car’s built-in Bluetooth is a second.  The third is to just avoid making or taking calls while behind the wheel, which is arguably the best method.

Calls to 911, ambulances, fire and emergency response systems are exempt, as are all emergency personnel.  Picking up the phone to initiate or end a call is also OK.

This law follows up a 2009 law which banned texting while driving, which carries a fine of up to $500.

by John Suit

Source: MD State Government [PDF]


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