It’s never a bad time to contemplate safer driving, but with local law enforcement stepping up enforcement in April on the occasion of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, it’s a perfect time to consider ways to ensure traveling safely from Point A to Point B.

Most people have harsh opinions about those who get behind the wheel under the influence or those who drive aggressively and too fast. But someone who changes the radio station? Or eats a hamburger? Or applies makeup? Or glances down to check a text? That could be nearly anyone and any of it can qualify as distracted driving.


Police officials said more than 27,000 people are injured and 185 others die each year in Maryland because of distracted driving. Cellphone use — texting, searching the web, talking on a handheld device — is the most obvious and probably the most dangerous form of distracted driving. According to the Federal Communications Commission, an estimated 660,000 Americans use their phones while driving and approximately nine lives are lost each day in car crashes that involve distracted driving.

The best thing you can do is simply put down the phone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that “sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds and that at 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.” And what if someone calls you or texts or you’re lost? Don’t reach for the cellphone. Instead, wait until you have pulled over to a safe location. Many phones today have a Do Not Disturb While Driving feature to eliminate temptation.

If the potential for saving lives isn’t enough of an incentive, perhaps the potential for saving money is.

“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 via email, noting that all state police barracks will be placing “extra emphasis” on looking for distracted drivers throughout April.

Using a handheld cellphone is a primary offense in Maryland. Already in 2019, MSP troopers have issued 3,065 citations and 3,528 warnings for distracted driving violations, Snyder said last week.

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. 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.

In addition to avoiding driving distracted, here are some other tips to be a safer driver from

  • Buckle up. According to the NHTSA, seat belt use helped save over 14,000 lives in 2016.
  • Watch your speed. In 2017, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics stated that speeding “continues to be the number one cited driver-related factor in highway fatal crashes.”
  • Avoid road rage. reports that 66 percent of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving.
  • Drive according to weather conditions. During inclement weather such as rainy or snowy conditions, give yourself more time to react.
  • Do not drive under the influence. While drunken driving numbers are dropping and ride-sharing services like Uber are becoming available in more and more places, 29 percent of fatalities in 2017 occurred due to drunk driving.