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Maryland Prepares to go Hands-free with New Law

Car accidents involving distracted drivers have lawmakers across the country scrambling for laws that would limit handheld devices for those behind the wheel. Maryland is the latest, with Governor Martin O'Malley signing a bill into law on May 20 to limit handheld use throughout the state.

In recent years, distracted driving has risen to the forefront of consideration for many lawmakers seeking to decrease the number of car accidents on the country's roadways. Using a cell phone behind the wheel is believed to be as dangerous - in some cases more dangerous - than drinking and driving.

Under the new law, it will be illegal for drivers to use their hands for anything but:

  • turning the phone on or off
  • initiate or terminate a call

Texting is a big no. Browsing the Internet is equally frowned upon. Even checking for directions on your smartphone could net you a $40 fine, if you're a first-time offender.

Still, for many, Maryland's new handheld ban is far from ideal. The biggest problem isn't a new one, but it's nonetheless frustrating for officers attempting to enforce the law. The problem is that, under the new law, handheld violations are classified as secondary offenses.

This means that police officers are not allowed to pull drivers over for handheld violations alone. A driver may be cited only if pulled over for another reason, such as speeding, DUI or a missing tail light.

The law goes into effect on October 1.

Drivers will be able to speak on the phone using a hands-free device. This could be an earpiece or dash-mounted speaker. Even some GPS devices now come with built-in Bluetooth.

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