Montgomery County is launching an awareness and enforcement campaign this month designed to reduce distracted driving and warn pedestrians about “distracted walking.”
As part of the campaign, county police plan to “aggressively” enforce laws concerning cell phone use while driving and the use of seatbelts in April and May. Police plan to focus part of the operation at public elementary and middle schools, where officers will monitor parents’ use of cell phones while driving and whether they are wearing seatbelts, according to a press release.
Police plan to report the number and types of violations they spot to principals, who will then inform parents through their own outreach efforts. The goal is to use the school community to cut down on distracted driving and parents who aren’t buckling up, according to the release.
Maryland law prohibits drivers from using a handheld cell phone other than to initiate a call or turn the phone on or off. Fines, including court costs, range from $83 for a first offense to $160 for a third offense. The law also requires all drivers and front-seat passengers to wear seat belts. The fine for not wearing one is $83 for either a driver or a front-seat passenger.
On Wednesday morning, 65 drivers were pulled over at the intersection of River and Goldsboro roads in Bethesda for distracted driving.
The county’s enforcement campaign will be supported by the distribution of information on social media and in emails about the county’s “Stay Alert, Stay Alive” campaign, which encourages drivers and pedestrians to put down their cell phones while they’re navigating the county’s streets. There are no penalties in Maryland for walking and using your cellphone, although some jurisdictions, such as Honolulu, have established fines for pedestrians who use a cellphone while walking in a crosswalk.
The overall effort is part of the county’s Vision Zero plan, which aims to reduce severe and fatal collisions on roadways by 35 percent by November 2019 through a combination of traffic engineering, enforcement and education.
“Distracted driving and distracted walking are two of the leading causes of crashes in Montgomery County,” County Executive Ike Leggett said Thursday in a statement. “Today, we are reminding drivers and pedestrians of the need to stay alert to stay alive.”
From April 23 to 27, county traffic officers and Montgomery County Public Schools will collaborate for “Teen Pedestrian Safety Week” to educate students and young drivers about the dangers of distracted walking and driving.
The county noted in a press release that over the last five years drivers have struck more than 290 teenaged pedestrians in Montgomery County, killing five.
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