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New State Law: No Handheld Phones While Driving

A memorable rite of passage likely ensued for many Maryland drivers on September 30, as they said good bye to their cell phones and either opted for a hands-free headset or speaker system while driving or simply decided to motor along without talking to anybody.

The outcome for most will probably be the former, if history repeats itself; in the small but growing number of other states that have enacted laws banning hand-held cell phone use while driving, sales of equipment that allow for hands-free communication have spiked.

Maryland's change in law - passed earlier this year and now in effect - owes to a predominantly accepted view that having one hand on the wheel and the other on a phone equates to roadway danger and an increased number of motor vehicle accidents.

So, drivers must conform going forward or pay the price. The new state law makes non-compliance a secondary violation, meaning that a police officer must first stop a motorist for a primary violation - such as speeding - before he or she can ticket a driver for talking on a cell phone with hands engaged. A first offense brings a $40 fine; subsequent violations are $100 each. Drivers are still allowed to begin and end calls with handheld phones, but everything between must be hands-free.

Other states are likely to follow with similar bans and penalties, and the trend is expected to promote a number of on-board technologies that will allow a driver to communicate freely with both hands firmly on the steering wheel. One recent development, for example, is a program that allows motorists to compose and send text messages through voice commands.

Related Resource: www.yorkdispatch.com "Md. ban on using hand-held cell phones while driving begins Friday" September 29, 2010

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