FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
|CONTACT:||Buel C. Young||MVA External Affairs|
Maryland Kicks Off National Distracted Driving Awareness Month
Statewide events planned to highlight the dangers of driver distraction
GLEN BURNIE, MD (April 2, 2015) – Imagine driving home from a long day at work or school when you are suddenly in a crash simply due to the other driver not paying attention. It would be frustrating, potentially costly, and it could even end up in tragedy. More than 28,000 people are injured each year in that same scenario in Maryland due to driver distractions. The MVA’s Maryland Highway Safety Office (MHSO) will be increasing the awareness of distracted driving throughout the month of April through educational outreach events and by providing overtime funds to statewide law enforcement agencies for increased enforcement of Maryland’s distracted driving laws.
“Anything that takes your eyes away from the road is a distraction,” stated Motor Vehicle Administration Administrator and Governor’s Representative for Highway Safety, Milt Chaffee. “Whether you’re eating or using a cell phone for any reason while driving, driver distraction is very preventable and there’s really no excuse.”
Driver distraction is a factor in approximately one in four crashes across the nation. In Maryland, there are over 53,000 distracted driving crashes every year, playing a role in approximately 58 percent of total crashes. On average, 232 people are killed as the result of a distracted driver in Maryland and distracted driving played a role in nearly half of all fatal crashes in the state.
Making phone calls, sending or reading texts, checking email, or accessing social media while driving is exceptionally dangerous. One study showed that the average person spends approximately five seconds with their eyes off the road while reading or sending a text. In that time, a vehicle traveling at 55 miles per hour covers roughly the distance of a football field. The effect would be driving that same distance while blindfolded.
The penalties for using cell phones or other electronic devices while driving can be severe and police in Maryland are cracking down on distracted drivers. A citation can cost a violator as much as $160, with possible points being assessed if a violation contributed to a crash. In early 2014, Maryland passed House Bill 1212 or “Jake’s Law,” named after five-year-old Jake Owen who was killed by a distracted driver in 2011, and offenders who cause crashes resulting in death or serious injury while using a handheld cell phone are subject to penalties of up to one year in jail and a fine of $5,000.
Other distractions include changing radio stations, eating, and children or pets distracting a driver from their primary responsibility of driving. As a part of Maryland’s campaign, the MHSO is asking motorists to “Park the Phone Before You Drive” and to save things like making a call or checking social media sites for when they are done with driving and can do so safely. Also, addressing things like child-related issues should wait until the driver is parked in a safe location.
“Safety on our roads is one of our highest priorities,” stated Chaffee. “When drivers don’t pay full attention while driving, lives are put on the line. Park the phone before you drive, always pay attention, and please wear your seat belt. It’s your best defense against a distracted driver.”
# # #
Note: Maryland's Toward Zero Deaths campaign focuses on preventing impaired driving, aggressive driving, and distracted driving, while also promoting seat belt use. For more information on the Toward Zero Deaths campaign, please visit www.towardzerodeathsmd.com.
 Reference: Crash data are derived from the State Highway Administration, based on reports submitted and processed by the Maryland State Police Central Records Division (MSP CRD) and through the Automated Crash Reporting System (ACRS). Crash data are based on 5-year averages for the years 2009–2013.
# # #