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Distracted Driving in Maryland

Here's what you need to know...
  • Distracted driving is a serious problem that contributes to many car accidents in Maryland each year
  • Maryland has adopted distracted driving laws that all motorists should be aware of
  • Even the safest drivers can be in an accident caused by a driver who is distracted
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as any activity that takes a driver’s focus or attention off of the act of operating the car.

It is important to note that these distractions may be mental, visual, or manual. Some activities, such as using a cell phone while driving, may encompass all three types of distracted driving.

Make sure you are covered for all your driving needs with our free insurance comparison tool above!

Distracted Driving Behavior in the United States

Distracted driving is a contributing factor in almost 10 percent of fatal car accidents in the United States. More than that, over the last year, fatal car accidents have risen by 7.2 percent. This is a huge increase in fatalities, and some attribute the increase in fatalities to the prevalence of distracted driving across the country.

In fact, as many as 56 percent of drivers surveyed admitted to the use of a cell phone while operating their car even though most also stated that they are aware of the dangers associated with doing so.

– A Closer Look at Distracted Driving in Maryland

In Maryland, April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. While law enforcement officials across the state regularly look for distracted driving activities in drivers, this is a month when the focus is increased.

Remember that distracted driving can be caused by the use of a cell phone, personal grooming, reading, using a GPS navigational system, and more while operating a car. Even speaking with other passengers in the car is a distraction.

– What Maryland Laws Say About Distracted Driving

In 2014, Jake’s Law was passed in Maryland that makes distracted driving activities illegal. If you cause an accident while using a cell phone in this state, you may face a financial penalty up to $5,000, and you could spend up to three years in jail.

You do not have to be involved in an accident to be cited for a distracted driving violation. Specifically, state law prohibits the use of a cell phone or smartphone while driving. You may face fines for each incidence when you violate this law.

Be aware that there are other forms of distracted driving as well.

While it is not illegal to eat, smoke, or talk to others in the car with you, for example, you should still minimize or eliminate these activities as much as possible so that you are not distracted while you are operating your vehicle.

Understand that any use of a cell phone is prohibited while you are driving in Maryland. Just as you cannot talk on the phone while driving, you also cannot send text messages or even have your cell phone in your hand.

You can, however, use Bluetooth technology to have a phone conversation or to instruct your cell phone to send a text message.

Just as it is not illegal to eat or smoke in a car while you are driving despite the dangers associated with these distractions, even Bluetooth technology use of a cell phone can distract you from the act of driving your car safely.

The best idea is to avoid any type of distracted driving behaviors and to devote your total attention to the road if you want to stay as safe as possible while driving in Maryland or in any other location.

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The Impact of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a serious issue that can have damaging consequences for you, your passengers in the car, other drivers who you share the road with, and even other pedestrians or cyclists.

It is important to understand how your distracted driving actions can impact others and to obtain the right car insurance coverage to protect you from financial loss if you are involved in an accident.

In Maryland, you may be held financially responsible for any damages you cause while driving your vehicle.

This means that you may have to pay for other people’s medical bills if you cause injuries, and you may have to pay for their vehicle repairs, property damage repairs, and more.

Liability car insurance is one type of coverage that you need to purchase, and there are minimum coverage requirements you need to meet based on state law. This type of coverage pays for the expenses you cause for others while you are driving.

Consider that you may have to pay up to $20,000 or more to replace a vehicle that is totaled, and medical bills for injured drivers and passengers can easily tally into the tens of thousands of dollars or more.

These expenses may be your responsibility, but liability coverage may pay for them up to the limits set in your insurance policy.

If you are involved in a car accident, you may also have your own vehicle repair bills and medical bills to pay.

Liability insurance will not pay for these, so you may need to purchase optional collision or comprehensive insurance to pay for these expenses. Some drivers also upgrade their coverage to pay for towing service, a rental car, and other related expenses.

– When You Shop for New Coverage

AdobeStock_61298662-1600x1600As you can see, auto insurance is a necessity for drivers in Maryland if you want to comply with the law and minimize your expenses related to an accident, but coverage needs and rates can change over time.

Reviewing at least three or four different quotes from top insurance companies every six months will help you to avoid the possibility of being underinsured if you are involved in an accident, and it will also help you to save money on your premium.

– The Prevalence of Distracted Driving in Maryland

You may be wondering what your risk is of being involved in a distracted driving car accident in Maryland. In 2012, the number of fatal car accidents in this state alone caused by distracted driving was 246. The total number of distracted driving car accidents in 2013 was 53,674.

Notably, these numbers declined to 48,550 distracted driving car accidents and only 120 deaths in 2015.

This is likely a sign that Jake’s Law is having a positive effect on drivers by decreasing cell phone use while driving.

It is interesting to note that more than eight percent of all distracted driving accidents occur during the evening commute between 5 pm and 6 pm. Drivers should be particularly vigilant about distracted driving during this time of day.

In addition, more than 26 percent of drivers involved in these types of accidents are between the ages of 21 and 29 years old.

4 Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving

There are many steps that you can take to avoid distracted driving. By improving your driving habits in these ways, you can stay safer on the road.

#1 – Put Your Cell Phone Out of Reach

You may be tempted to reach for your phone when it rings or when you receive a text message. Some drivers also use their cell phone for directions if they are lost.

Place your phone out of reach before you start driving to avoid the temptation of reaching for it impulsively.

– Avoid Eating and Drinking in the Car

You should get in the habit of eating in restaurants rather than eating and drinking in the car. Plan ahead so that you have time to eat before or after you drive.

Even if you pick up fast food at a drive-thru window, park the car while you are eating.

– Limit the Number of Passengers

When you have more passengers in your car, you may be more likely to be involved in an accident. When possible, avoid taking more than one or two passengers with you at a time. Ask other people to drive their own cars, if necessary.

– Adjust Your Radio and Mirrors Beforehand

Fidgeting with mirrors or your radio dial can also pull your attention off of the road. Adjust these features so that you are properly situated before you start driving, or consider driving without the radio on so that you can fully focus your attention on the road.

Make sure to compare rates with our free insurance comparison tool below to ensure you have the right coverage for your needs!

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