News Release, AAA

Glen Burnie, Md. (July 31, 2019)– The Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration (MDOT MVA), AAA Mid-Atlantic and Maryland State Police are teaming up to remind motorists of the risks of distracted driving. At an event today at the MVA Glen Burnie Branch, officials noted that each year on Maryland roads, distracted driving is reported as a factor in nearly 200 fatalities and more than 28,000 injuries.

“We all play a role in reducing and ultimately eliminating crashes, fatalities and injuries on our roadways,” said MDOT MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer, who also serves as Governor Larry Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative. “Our Park the Phone campaign is a reminder of the danger of using a cellphone while driving, and we also urge motorists to always use a seat belt – every seat, every time. It’s your best defense in a crash.”

AAA Mid-Atlantic’s traffic safety campaign, “Don’t Drive Intoxicated, Don’t Drive Intexticated,” encourages people to change texting behaviors behind the wheel. With the help of MDOT MVA, Maryland State Police, MDOT State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) and other traffic safety partners, AAA reached motorists across the state to increase awareness.

“AAA has made traffic safety a priority since 1921, working to make roads, vehicles, and drivers safer,” said Ragina Cooper Ali, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Through this initiative and partnerships with other stakeholders, we are committed to changing attitudes and behaviors surrounding the deadly problem of distracted driving. We will continue this effort to save lives on our roadways.”

While supplies lasted, MDOT MVA employees handed out “Park the Phone” and “Don’t Drive Intexticated” keychains Wednesday at branch locations to customers completing a transaction.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55 mph, those five seconds equate to traveling the length of a football field blindfolded. Distracted driving is especially concerning among younger drivers. NHTSA data since 2007 indicates drivers between ages 16 and 24 use handheld electronic devices while driving at higher rates compared to older drivers.

In addition to using a cellphone while operating a motor vehicle, distracted driving can include anything that takes a driver’s attention away from driving, such as eating, changing radio stations and talking to passengers.

Our strict enforcement of traffic laws is a daily reminder to drivers that our laws are in place for their safety, “said Captain Daniel Pickett, Maryland State Police Field Operations Bureau. “Violation of those laws impacts the safety of everyone on our roads.”

In Maryland, fines for using a cellphone while driving are $83 for the first offense, $140 for a second offense and $160 for a third offense. Writing, sending or reading a text or electronic message while driving can result in a $70 fine and one point on the driver’s record. These penalties increase if the use of a device contributes to a crash, serious injury or death.

As part of its awareness campaign, MDOT MVA offers these safe driving tips:

  • Serve as an example for your family and friends by avoiding distractions while driving.
  • -Pull over and park in a safe location if you need to send a text message.
  • Designate a passenger to respond to any messages while you are behind the wheel.
  • Save social media for later. Do not use your phone for social media while driving.
  • Put your cellphone in the trunk, glove box or back seat if you are tempted to use it.
  • Speak up. If your friends or family use their cellphones while driving, ask them to stop.
  • Also, keep police and other emergency responders safe and MOVE OVER if it’s safe to do so, or slow down when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle using visual signals.

Learn more about Park the Phone and other Maryland highway safety efforts at towardzerodeathsmd.com, on Facebook @towardzerodeathsmd, on Twitter @tzd_maryland, and on Instagram @twdzerodeaths_md.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

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...