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Texting and driving and commercial motor vehicles in Maryland

Most people in Maryland know about the dangers of texting and driving. Yet when these dangers are combined with operating a commercial motor vehicle, such as a semi-truck, the risks can increase dramatically. In fact, safety-critical events such as swerving between lanes, car accidents and near-accidents increase by more than 20 times if a commercial motor vehicle driver is texting while on the road.

For these reasons, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration along with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has issued rules regarding commercial motor vehicles and texting while driving.

First of all, commercial motor vehicle drivers are not allowed to engage in texting and driving. This means sending a text, emailing, entering an internet address, instant messaging, pressing more than one button to activate or deactivate a voice command or even reading a text.

In addition, the rules prohibit drivers of commercial motor vehicles from reaching for or even handling a cellphone in order to use voice communication. They also can't press more than a single button when dialing. However, they are allowed to use hands-free devices. This is possible if the driver keeps the phone close enough to them that they are able to use it hands-free without having to unbuckle their seatbelt. Using a speakerphone or earpiece is also allowed. One-button voice commands for receiving or ending a call are also OK.

Penalties for violating these rules include fines or even driver disqualifications. The fines could reach up to $2,750. In addition, motor carriers can be subject to fines of as much as $11,000 if they request that their drivers to use hand-held devises while on the road.

With so much on the line, it seems like common sense not to use a cellphone while driving, particularly when you are handling a vehicle that weights tens of thousands of pounds. However, that doesn't stop some drivers from engaging in risky or negligent behaviors. Should you be injured in an accident with a commercial motor vehicle, you may want to explore your rights to compensation.

Source:, "Distracted Driving," accessed Sept. 15, 2014

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