Montgomery County cracking down on distracted driving

Authorities in Montgomery County are cracking down on distracted driving.

Montgomery County Police and Maryland State Police began their first countywide distracted driving enforcement effort of the year Friday. A part of their Vision Zero plan, the initiative is to reduce severe and fatal collisions on county roads.

"Sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for about five seconds—long enough to cover a football field while driving at 55 miles per hour," said Wade Holland, Montgomery County’s Vision Zero Initiative coordinator in a statement. "Distracted drivers are a danger not only to themselves, but also to pedestrians and cyclists. We try many ways to get this message to drivers. Enforcement programs send the message very loudly."

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Officials say approximately 27,000 people are injured or killed annually in Maryland because of distracted driving crashes.

Being convicted of illegally driving while holding a cell phone in Maryland can result in an $83 fine for the first offense and a $140 fine for a second offense. Subsequent offenses could result in fines of $160.

In Maryland, penalties for writing, sending or reading a text while driving can include a $70 fine and one point on your license. Officials say a driver who causes serious injury or death while talking or texting could face up to three years in prison and be fined up to $5,000.

Montgomery County’s Vision Zero Initiative encourages drivers to do the following:

- Leave cell phones in the glovebox when entering the car so you are not tempted to make calls or answer calls and become distracted.

- Consider enabling the "Do Not Disturb" mode your phone before getting into the vehicle.

- Hold your family and friends accountable. Passengers should speak up in the car when the driver is distracted.

- Designate a passenger as the "designated texter" so the driver is not distracted.