Stiffer cellphone law in effect – drivers beware

BY CIERRA MCDONALD

The first day of October ushered in many new changes for Marylanders, one in particular being the cellphone law, which gave police officers the authority to pull over residents and ticket them on a first time offense for using a handheld mobile phone.

“We get a lot of complaints about people texting and driving and talking on a phone and driving. Prior to the first day of October, we had to tell people it’s a secondary offense to talk on the phone since we really couldn’t stop them. But now we can,” Alan Goldberg, Chief of Police for Takoma Park, said.

Takoma Park Police

This cellphone law was just one of many laws that was enacted on the first day of October including banning assault weapons, the death penalty repeal, seatbelt requirements, and rules against cyber bullying.

The cellphone law was created in hopes of preventing drivers from being distracted while on the road and to lower car accidents and deaths within the state.

No talking, no texting

“One person driving can just wipe out a family, so I’m really pleased about the law,” Phil Shapiro, library assistant in Takoma Park, said.

This law bans cellphone use in any moving vehicle whether it is texting or talking and whether it was done at a stop sign or a red light.

“Well, I think it’s for the interest of everyone because at some point I understand that there are many accidents that are due to people using phones . . . to make sure everybody is safe it makes sense to ban all kind of texting and talking on the phone while driving,” resident John Kavuyavu, said.

Handsfree

Drivers of a certain age may use hands-free devices such as Bluetooth or earpieces but one ear must be left uncovered so that the driver is aware of their surroundings.

“It’s a good thing and I think particularly for the younger people, I know they can get carried away using the cellphones,” resident Jackie Baxter, said.

All drivers under the age of 18, school bus drivers, those with learning permits and a provisional drivers license are banned from using their cellphones and any hands-free devices as well.

texting

“I think it’s going to make it safer and I’m glad that the state decided to enact it,” resident Hetty Irmer, said.

The only exception is in dialing 911 for an emergency.

“I think that’s fantastic, the number of people that I see texting and talking on their phones is outrageous,” resident Amy Schwenkmeyer, said.

No slack

Prior to the first day of October, drivers would receive a violation for their cellphone use only after their second encounter with the police occurred. With the enforcement of the new cellphone law it only takes one encounter with the police to get ticketed for cellphone use while driving.

“There’s many bad habits that are important to break and sometimes we need a law to help us to break those habits,” resident Debra Farkas, said.

The fines for cellphone violations while driving range from $75 to $175.

“It should be enforced more vigorously,” resident Daniel Miller, said.

Cellphone

Many residents agreed that the new cellphone law was a step to being more proactive.

“I think it will prevent a lot of accidents,” resident Cheryl Patterson, said.

Not safe

Many others shared the common concern for their safety in hopes that this law will put an end to driving while using cellphones.

“There are too many people who talk on cellphones while they’re driving and it is not safe,” resident Natalie Hopkins, said.

Cellphones have become a convenient addition to life for many, but for Marylanders traveling the roads it seems to be more compulsively distracting than anything.

“Distracted driving kill as many people as drunk drivers or injure as many people as drunk drivers. And unfortunately 10 years ago we never thought cellphone use and texting would be this bad,” Goldberg, said.