Troopers say it’s one of their top priorities in traffic law enforcement.
Pikesville, Md. (KM). With so many people heading out on the roads this time of year for summer vacations and visiting friends and family, the Maryland State Police are reminding motorists of the dangers of distracted driving. Spokesman Greg Shipley says troopers continue to make the enforcement of distracted driving laws a top priority. “We believe this is an important issue. And as technology advances, there continues to be more distractions for drivers in their vehicles, whether it’s the cell phone or something on the dash,” he says.
State Police say between January 1st and July 1st of this year, troopers issued a combined 20,762 warnings and citations to distracted drivers, which is more than the 17,718 issued during the same period in 2016.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as any activity which diverts a motorist’s attention from their driving, including talking or texting on a cell phone, eating and drinking, talking to other occupants of the vehicle, or adjusting the stereo or entertainment system in your car.
Shipley says taking your eyes off the road for an average of five-seconds going at 55-miles per hour is like traveling the length of a football field. “A lot can happen if you’re driving a vehicle the length of a football field and not looking at what’s ahead of you and what’s around you. And that’s what we can’t have afford to have happen. We continue to see that contribute to crashes across the state,” he says.
The Maryland Highway Traffic Safety Office says an average of 30,000 people are injured or killed each year in crashes linked to distracted driving. NHTSA says in 2015, 3,477 people were killed and 391,00 more were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
“Focus on your driving. Make sure you arrive at your destination safely. Put those other distractions aside. Put the cell phone aside,” says Shipley.
If you have to answer an important call on the cell phone, or calm down some excited kids, he says pull your vehicle on the shoulder or into a parking lot, turn off the engine and deal with the issue that way.
State Police say drivers who cause serious injury of death by talking on a hand held cell phone or texting behind the wheel can face three-years in prison or a $5,000 fine. Authorities say these are primary offenses and police officers can stop a vehicle if they observe these activities without you committing another traffic offense.
By Kevin McManus