BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland police agencies have issued thousands of tickets to drivers for using handheld cell phones behind the wheel in the year since a ban took effect.

Records from more than 70 police agencies in the state that participate in the Electronic Traffic Information Exchange were obtained by The Associated Press from state police. The records show 9,248 tickets have been issued to drivers who failed to use a hands-free device since the ban went into effect in October 2010.

About 4,764 of those tickets were written by state troopers.

Drivers can be fined $40 for their first violations and $100 for subsequent ones. However, it is a secondary offense, meaning drivers can only be pulled over for another offense, such as running a red light.

“I think it is working pretty well,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., D-Baltimore County. “It has certainly made people more aware of the safety issues involved. However, I still think it would be more effective if it was a primary offense.”

The Maryland Highway Safety Foundation doesn’t have a position on whether the violation should be bumped up to a primary offense, but it is worthy of discussion during the upcoming General Assembly session, foundation lobbyist William Kress said.

“The numbers are pretty astounding considering it’s a secondary offense,” Kress said. “It’s a good start, but probably more needs to be done.”

Delegate Michael D. Smigiel Sr., R-Cecil, opposed the ban on the grounds that it was too invasive.

“I abhor the fact that someone would take their eyes off the road. It’s just wrong. You should pay attention,” he said. “But it doesn’t make it right for the government to come in to dictate what we should do.”

He’s also concerned about unforeseen consequences, such as people holding phones out of sight to avoid being pulled over and distracting themselves more, he said. He’s in favor of education to show people the risks they are taking.

Data show that 966 warnings and citations have been issued for texting while driving in the same period, including 565 issued by state troopers. Writing and sending text messages was already barred, but starting Saturday it will be illegal to read texts behind the wheel, too. The violation will also become a primary offense, meaning officers can stop drivers for violating the ban.

Allowing the handheld phone violation as a secondary offense is only a prelude to making it a primary offense, Smigiel said.

“Once the government gets in your car or your home, the government intrusion doesn’t stop until the government is completely in your home,” he said.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (12)
  1. KottaMan says:

    Still waiting for the accident data showing that cell phone use was identified in the state’s crashes. It doesn’t exist in the MAARS system. This law was from “knee-jerk” politicians who wanted to appear to be “doing something.”

  2. JR says:

    What are they really doing? Nothing but generating more funds for the city or state.. Think about it they have been giving out speeding tickets for years and has it changed many drivers behavior? No so why not come up with something that works…

  3. Kay says:


    1. willie says:

      Kay, STFU before I arrest you. Cops have always had a double standard.

  4. Wheres common sense when you need it says:

    Maybe if people would pay more attention to driving instead of talking and texting, we wouldn’t need this law. Unfortunately, most of you can’t drive to begin with and when you add in distractions, it becomes much worse. Driving is a responsibility and we all know how responsible people are………..

  5. Mr.Rite says:

    This is just another opportunity for the Sate ticket and tax/ find the tax payers

  6. Buzzsaw says:

    So who does the private sector contact when we observe cops, especially Baltimore City yapping away on their cell phones. Just a day ago I watched a State Trooper texting at a traffic light in Falston Md. right next to me at a traffic light. #152 and #1. Or the city cops yapping away at Cold Spring and Harford Rd.

  7. Mike says:

    Instead of people Crying about this ,maybe they would see it different if one of these Phone and text addicted drivers ran a red light and killed his or her family, then the outcry from those of you who have posted that its invasive of your privacy would realize its a serious issue and on the show myth busters a drunk driver was able to out perform a driver who was texting….So are we going to legalize drinking and driving too…Liberalisim is going to destroy this country….

  8. sheriff says:

    Just like the idiots that complain about speed cameras, if you don’t speed, you won’t get a ticket. Don’t talk on a phone or text & you won’t get a ticket & u might save your life & mine. It’s as simple as that even chimps understand.

    1. Just Saying says:

      sheriff is a chimp, and he understands very well.

      Nother banana, sheriff?

  9. Good Plan says:

    Yes, police have a double standard. We all know this.

    So, what do we do about it? ….post a comment on WJZ?

    Get serious.

    If you see an officer talking on the phone while driving, at a traffic light, or any time that his keys are in the ignition, act immediately (just as they would, if the roles were reversed).

    Use your phone to record “video footage” of the crime. Make sure that you get clear video of the officer’s face, the phone, and also be sure to video the license plate number and any identifying numbers on the squad car.

    Once you have done this, you need to clearly understand that you have accomplished nothing, until you post the video on YouTube.

    Cops hate people with video camers. So, be forewarned. If they see you video-taping them, you could be shot (or, at the very least, beaten with a club). Be very, very careful. You might even consider hiding behind a tree or billboard sign (like they do) if your conscience will allow it.

    Lastly, have your friend email the police station, and complain about the video that he/she watched on YouTube and include a link to the video (you can’t trust them to find it on their own). Demand that something be done about the “crime”, and that you are going to ask your cousin (lawyer) if you should contact the Police Commissioner for further action.

    Make sure to use a benign email account; sent from a public computer. No need to put your friend and family at risk of legal harrassment or an early morning drug raid and subsequent “accidental shooting”.

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