Cumberland Times-News

April 6, 2014

Pay attention

Police targeting distracted drivers


Cumberland Times-News

— The National Safety Council says that  9 percent of drivers at any given daylight moment are talking on phones while driving. Is it any wonder that law enforcement agencies across the land are taking part in National Distracted Driver Awareness month?

In Maryland, state police are assigning extra patrols of troopers to be on the lookout for drivers using cellphones or who otherwise seem to be distracted while driving.

 The Maryland Highway Safety Office said in 2012, 246 people lost their lives on Maryland roads because of a collision where at least one form of distracted driving was noted as a cause.  

Drivers also should not buy into the argument that hands-free devices are safe to use while driving. The safety council said dashboard information systems in newer cars can lead to distractions. In fact, voice texting features have been found by research to be even more distracting than typing. Even if drivers don’t need to use their hands to type texts and emails, voice-to-text features require drivers to look at the translated messages to be sure they are correct.

Drivers also are mentally distracted because they’re focused on talking and fixing the message errors. Slower reaction times occur, no matter whether drivers are typing a text or using voice-to-text technology, the safety council said.

The penalty in Maryland for using a handheld cellphone or texting device while driving is $75 for the first offense and $125 for second and subsequent incidents. The Motor Vehicle Administration can assess points if the violation contributes to a vehicle crash.

While on the road during April, Marylanders will likely see more state police troopers than usual. That should be plenty of incentive to drive carefully and forget cell phones and texting.