Cumberland Times-News

September 19, 2013

Police should go after ‘hard-core’ cell phone users

Cumberland Times-News

— Drivers are supposed to put away their handheld cell phones or texting devices while they are behind the wheel. Unfortunately, an overwhelming number of them do not.

A blatant disregard for Maryland’s law against driving while using handheld wireless devices is evident any day of the week. While you are stopped at a traffic light, just observe the moving traffic and notice how many people continue to have one hand on the wheel and the other on a cell phone.

Some of that may change Oct. 1. On that date, Maryland’s law against using handheld wireless devices while driving becomes a primary offense — meaning police can pull you over and write a ticket. Until now, the law was a secondary offense and police had to have another reason to stop someone they saw on a cell phone or texting.

The wireless device law is not something to be taken lightly. Distracted drivers cause accidents and can cause deaths on the highway — their own and the lives of others.

As of Oct. 1, the penalty for using a handheld device will be a fine of up to $75 for the first offense, up to $125 for a second offense, and $175 for every ticket after that. That’s a lot of money — to say nothing about the points that will be assessed against the violator’s motor vehicle license.

A few years ago when Maryland passed its first law making cell phone use a secondary offense, the hope was that motorists would take heed and switch to a hands-free phone or stop cell phone use while driving altogether.

While many motorists did obey the law, many more did not. It is these “hard-core” handheld cell phone users that police should now go after.