La Plata, MD- Today, April 22, 2019 Sheriff’s offices from Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties launched a seat belt and distracted driving initiative to focus on enhancing driver safety. The “Buckle Up. Phone Down.” campaign combines sustained education and enforcement to encourage motorists to always wear seat belts and park cellphones.

“More than 120 unbelted drivers and passengers are killed every year in Maryland” said Chrissy Nizer, MDOT MVA Administrator and Governor Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative. “Not being belted can cause passengers to become projectiles in the event of a crash, causing serious injuries or death to other people in the car. To ensure you arrive at your destination safely, everyone in a vehicle should buckle up, and drivers should park the phone, day and night.”

BUCKLE UP. PHONE DOWN.” combines sustained education and enforcement to encourage motorists to always wear seat belts and park cellphones. Failure to wear a seat belt and distracted driving are among the primary causes of injuries and fatalities on Maryland roads. Between 2013 and 2017, more than 16,000 crashes in the three southern counties involved unbelted motorists and/or distracted drivers.

“Buckling a seat belt takes three seconds and is your best defense in the event of a crash,” said Charles County Sheriff Troy Berry.

In Maryland, drivers and passengers can be fined $83 for not wearing a seat belt. Fines for using a handheld cellphone while driving are $83 for a first offense, $140 for a second and $160 for a third. Writing, sending or reading a text or electronic message while driving can result in a $70 fine and one point on the motorist’s record. These penalties increase if the use of a device contributes to a crash, serious injury or death.

“Sadly, many people are driving with a cellphone in their hand, and people are losing their lives because of this irresponsible and illegal action,” said St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron.

The “BUCKLE UP. PHONE DOWN.” campaign includes week-long enforcement and education initiatives through August. During the enforcement waves, information on the dangers of unbelted and distracted driving will be conveyed via billboards, digital and social media, as well as additional outreach.

“Our deputies will be out enforcing Maryland’s distracted driving and seat belt laws because those laws save lives,” said Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans.

Drivers are also reminded to move over if safe to do so or slow down when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle using emergency signals.

David M. Higgins II

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...