Leggett, Others Decry Deaths from Distracted Driving

Half of all drivers involved in severe or fatal crash in Montgomery County were driving distracted, looking at their cell phones and sending texts.

“The statistics revealed that looking at our phones while in the roadway is deadly,” County Executive Ike Leggett said Thursday. “While at the wheel of a vehicle our job is to drive safely and stay alert. If instead we try to look at our phones or send a text, our eyes go down, and brains and our hands are occupied. So we can’t drive safely.”

Leggett, County Councilmember Marc Elrich and Montgomery County police Capt. Tom Didone held a news conference on Randolph Road, not far from where police had targeted for enhanced enforcement for distracted driving.

The news conference was scheduled to mark April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Beginning in April and ending in May, police will be aggressively enforcing prevention of cell phone use while driving and seat belt violations throughout the county, according to a county news release.

Officers will also conduct, “Operation Safe Ride” to schools, targeting elementary and middle schools. The officers will select areas around schools in their Districts to first monitor for cell phone use and non-use of seat belts while driving. They will report the number and types of violations to the schools’ principals. The principals will then do an educational outreach to their parents. After the outreach, the officers will come back to the same areas and conduct strict enforcement of these laws. The goal is to encounter fewer offenders because of the school’s educational outreach to their communities, according to the news release.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett discusses the dangers of distracted driving.

Across the state, 183 people die every year and 27,000 others are injured from distracted-driving crashes, Leggett said. According to the National Safety Council, people who talk on their phones four times as likely to be in a crash, and people who text while driving are eight times as likely to be in a crash, he said.

Didone said 35 percent of all crashes are caused by distracted driving, surpassing speeding as the leading cause of crash.

“And just like speeding, unfortunately Americans and people traveling on our roads feel they are entitled to talk on their phone,” Didone said.

He said the demographics of cell phone scofflaws reveal that all ages and all races of people are talking on their cell phones while driving.

If a driver is caught holding a cell phone, the first offense can bring an $83 fine. The second offense jumps to $140 and $160 for the third, Didone said.

He said the General Assembly was considering legislation to take the fine to $500.

But enforcement is unlikely to change drivers’ habits.

“The way we’re going to solve this problem is not through enforcement. It’s through voluntary compliance,” Didone said.

“In the end it’ll be the behavior that makes a difference,” Elrich said. “Drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists need to put down the cell phones, look up and watch where we’re going.”

The push to improve distracted driving enforcement is part of the county’s Vision Zero effort to reduce severe and fatal collisions. Vision Zero focuses on traffic engineering, enforcement and education toward a 35 percent reduction in severe injuries and fatalities by November 2019.

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Douglas Tallman

About Douglas Tallman

Reporter with 35 years experience throughout Maryland. Reach me at dtallman@mymcmedia.org or via Twitter at @MCM-Doug


One Response to “Leggett, Others Decry Deaths from Distracted Driving”

  1. Avatar
    On April 6, 2018 at 10:04 am responded with... #

    Starting In April and ending in May ??? WHY year round 24×7….

    The fines are a joke .Hit the wallet big time…. POINTS on the license.

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