FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|CONTACT:||Buel C. Young||MVA Media Relations|
New Cell Phone and Seat Belt Laws Launched to Save Lives
Maryland Department of Transportation Officials Join Legislators, Law Enforcement and Safety Advocates in Highlighting New Laws to Local High School Students
ANNAPOLIS, MD (October 1, 2013) - Maryland Deputy Transportation Secretary Wilson H. Parran today joined Delegate James Malone, Anne Arundel County Police Chief Kevin Davis, Maryland Motor Vehicle Administrator John T. Kuo, legislators, and traffic safety advocates to promote the state's new cell phone and seat belt laws before dozens of Annapolis High School students. Officials provided details on the news laws to nearly 65 juniors and seniors, and warned them of the dangers of distracted driving and not wearing seat belts.
“Parking your cell phone while driving and using a seat belt in all seated positions in a car are two of the easiest, most effective ways to stay safe on our roadways,” said Deputy Transportation Secretary Wilson H. Parran. “Thanks to Governor O’Malley’s leadership, tough laws like these will help us reach our goal of reducing traffic fatalities in half by 2030. The O’Malley-Brown Administration is committed to saving lives and moving Maryland Toward Zero Deaths.”
Starting today, Maryland law enforcement can pull over and ticket drivers who have a cell phone in hand or to their ear while driving a vehicle. Also beginning today, all passengers 16 years and older sitting in the rear seats of a vehicle are now required to wear a seat belt. The new seat belt law is a secondary offense which means a police officer must pull over a driver for another offense. These two new laws will help eliminate needless tragedies on Maryland roads moving the State Toward Zero Deaths.
Maryland’s Toward Zero Deaths initiative is spearheaded by the Maryland Department of Transportation and is the overarching theme behind the statewide plan to reduce fatalities on state and local roadways. This plan, known as the Strategic Highway Safety Plan, encompasses a multitude of statewide partners, including Maryland State Police, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services System and, within the Department of Transportation, the State Highway Administration, Maryland Transportation Authority and Motor Vehicle Administration. The passage of tough legislative sanctions is a critical element to the implementation of the Strategic Highway Safety Plan and ultimately saving lives.
“Today we have a full ban on drivers with handhold cells, and everyone must wear a seat belt,” stated Malone. “These are lifesaving laws and I applaud the efforts of everyone involved in getting them passed – legislators, officials, and safety advocates.”
Nationally, 80 percent of vehicle crashes involve some sort of driver inattention. More than 30,000 people on average in Maryland are injured annually because of distracted driving. Cell phone use is cited as a leading cause of distraction. Seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45% per cent and injuries by 50%, and it is estimated that 185 lives could be saved in Maryland each year if seat bests were used by everyone. In addition, an analysis provided by the National Study Center for Trauma and EMS showed that belted drivers were 50% more likely to sustain a moderate to fatal injury as the result of a motor vehicle crash when the occupant seated directly behind them was unbelted as compared to drivers who were seated in front of a belted occupant.
“Teens and young drivers are especially susceptible to distractions and forgetting to wear their seat belts,” said Administrator Kuo. “Rookie Drivers should know that moving violations not only endanger their lives and the lives of their friends, and can also result in the lose of one’s license.”
Studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration support the implementation of increased fines and sanctions to prevent unwanted driver behavior. The expected outcome of the new laws, signed into law this year by Governor Martin O'Malley, is to deter motorists from making potentially fatal mistakes.
“Drivers are facing fines of up to $160 for using handheld cell phones and the fine has doubled for failing to wear a seat belt,” stated Chief Davis. “It's not about writing tickets. However, every officer in this State would rather issue a citation than visit a loved one with a highway death notification.”