Texting Ban, Other New Laws Now In Effect

BERLIN – Dozens of new laws passed by the Maryland General Assembly earlier this went into effect this week including a ban on text messaging while driving and the use of speed limit cameras in construction areas and school zones.

State lawmakers passed hundreds of pieces of legislation during the General Assembly session last spring, many of which are just now going into effect. Among the laws that took effect yesterday, Oct. 1, was a statewide ban on text messaging while driving. The new law, also known as the Delegate John Arnick Electronic Communications Traffic Safety Act for the bill’s main sponsor, prohibits a person from using a text messaging device to write or send a text message while operating a motor vehicle in motion.

The law makes text messaging while driving a misdemeanor subject to a civil penalty and a fine of up to $500 if convicted. State transportation officials praised the new law, citing a proliferation of text messaging while driving and its contribution to traffic accidents on Maryland roadways.

“Safe driving can reduce the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities on our roads,” said SHA Administrator Neil Pederson this week. “Every one of us has a responsibility to drive safely, and taking your eyes off the road to text is a recipe for disaster.”

The Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) is well aware of the new law and vowed this week to strictly enforce it. The OCPD believes drivers should minimize all distractions while operating a motor vehicle, particularly in an area with so many other distractions.

“Ocean City is subject to a significant amount of pedestrian, bike and vehicle traffic,” said Chief Bernadette DiPino. “The OCPD supports this important public safety regulation and will strictly enforce this law.”

While texting has become increasingly popular in recent years, there had been little information connecting text messaging to highway crashes, although new studies are linking the two activities. According to one recent study, 66 percent of 18-24-year-olds admitted texting while driving. In Maryland, 20,000 people are injured annually in crashes related to inattentive driving and 38 percent of all traffic injuries in the state involve an inattentive driver. Yet another study indicates texting while driving can have a similar effect on reaction time as driving impaired with a blood-alcohol content of .16, or twice the legal limit for drinking and driving.

The ban on texting while driving is one of dozens of new state laws that went into effect yesterday and many are directed at public safety. For example, the highly controversial law allowing the use of speed limit cameras in construction zones and near schools also went into effect, as did several other laws strengthening Maryland’s drunk-driving laws.