The Maryland State Police, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and the Westminster Police Department are joining together this month for a multi-agency enforcement effort focused on distracted driving, officials said Monday.

“During this enforcement initiative deputies, troopers, and officers will be stopping drivers for distracted driving including the use of handheld phones for calling or texting while driving,” MSP spokesman Ron Snyder said in an email.

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April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Police officials said more than 27,000 people are injured and 185 others die each year in Maryland because of distracted driving.

Police officials did not immediately have data available on the number of incidents by jurisdiction.

Using a handheld cellphone is a primary offense in Maryland, meaning drivers can be pulled over for it.

Drivers in Maryland caught using a cellphone while driving face a fine of up to $83. Second-time offenders face a maximum fine of $140 and third-time offenders face a maximum fine of $160.

Drivers can also be fined $70 and face one point on their driving record if caught texting while driving. If the use of a device contributes to a crash, the fine may increase to $110 and three points on your driving record, police said.

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The bill will automatically make it so fees are applied on a per-phone basis, rather than a per-bill basis. It could increase the fee, too.

Jake’s Law, enacted in Maryland in 2014, says any driver who causes serious injury or death can face up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Snyder said all state police barracks, including those in Westminster, Hagerstown and Frederick, will have an “extra emphasis” on distracted driving this month.

Already in 2019, MSP troopers have issued 3,065 citations and 3,528 warnings for distracted driving violations, Snyder said.

“Every time a driver takes their eyes off the road and focuses their attention on something else, they are endangering themselves, those in their vehicle and everyone else on the road around them,” Snyder said in a statement.

As an example, Snyder said a person who looks down at their phone to text for just five seconds while driving 55 mph “is like covering the length of a football field while driving blindfolded.”

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