Maryland Texting While Driving Ban: Designed to Prevent Maryland Accidents

September 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog

Maryland Text Messaging Ban

A new Maryland traffic law will go into effect tomorrow, banning text messaging while driving in an effort to reduce the number of Maryland accidents caused by distracted drivers.

The new law will make it illegal to type or send text messages while operating a motor vehicle. Being caught texting while driving in Maryland will be a misdemeanor, subject to a fine of up to $500. It will also be a primary driving offense, meaning that police will be able to pull people over and fine them if they suspect them of sending text messages.

Going into effect October 1, 2009, the new Maryland law allows sending messages to contact 911, and does not ban talking on the phone while driving. Playing games and using applications are not banned by the law either, and the law does not explicitly address e-mail, using twitter or updating Facebook, but their legality is up for interpretation and engaging in such activities likely carries the same distractions as text messaging.

The law is seen as a victory for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which seeks to have texting-while-driving bans in all 50 states by 2013. The law goes into effect just before AAA’s “Heads Up Driving Week.” from October 5 through October 11, which is designed to bring attention to driving behavior and encouraging distraction-free driving.

A recent study by Virginia Tech has found that truck accidents are 23 times more likely when a commercial driver is sending text messages while driving. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute looked at a number of different potential distractions for drivers of cars and trucks by adding cameras and instruments to the vehicles of drivers. Above any other distraction, text messaging truck drivers were putting themselves and others at the most risk.

The results were compiled from several driving studies conducted by the institute, and the collected data equaled about six million miles of driving. Heavy vehicle and truck drivers were 23.2 times more likely than a non-distracted driver to have a truck accident if they were texting, 6.7 times as likely to crash while reaching for, or using, an electronic device, and 5.9 times as likely to have an accident while dialing on a cell phone.

Drivers of light vehicles and cars were at much less risk of having a car accident, but still faced a 2.8 times greater risk of crashing while dialing a cell phone than a non-distracted driver and were 1.4 times more likely to crash while reaching for an object and 1.3 times as likely to have an auto accident while talking on the cell phone.

Researchers from the institute said that it was the tasks that drew the drivers’ eyes away from the road ahead of them that were the activities with the highest risk. Sending a text message took a driver’s eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds over a 6-second interval, which equates to driving the length of a football field at 55 mph without looking at the road. The study found that just talking on a cell phone, which does not distract a driver’s eyes from the road, made little difference in the likelihood of an accident.