New Law Will Enforce Stricter Penalties for Texting and Driving - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

New Law Will Enforce Stricter Penalties for Texting and Driving

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SALISBURY, Md.- A law enforcing stricter penalties on crashes that involve cellphone-related distracted driving will take effect across Maryland on Wednesday.

"Jake's Law" is named after Jake Owens, a 5-year-old boy who was killed in a crash in 2011 by a distracted driver. The driver was given a $1,000 fine, but no jail time. The current Maryland law results in fines for distracted drivers.

Under the new law a driver can be charged up to $5,000, and face one year in jail.

Sgt. John Allessandrini of the Wicomico County Sheriff's Office said stricter penalties are a positive thing.

"It's up to one year in jail, and a $5,000 fine and that's the maximum amount so anything up until that," Alllessandrini said. "There could also be other charges as well, but that's the new charge for texting or using a handheld device in any way and you cause an accident."

Texting and driving are an all too common sight on the road, according to Tom Hopkins of Salisbury.

"You see it all the time and a lot of innocent people have been hurt. You come up to a stoplight and sometimes you miss the light, because people are sitting there on their phone texting," Hopkins said.

Wanda Henderson of Salisbury agreed adding that texting is something that can wait while you're in the car.

"It's deadly and I think people need to be more careful.They can stop pull off the side of the road, or pull in the parking lot. Nothings that important that you have to text someone in the car," said Henderson.

Allessandrini said there are many distractions while driving, but texting has become the worst.

"It's been a problem for a lot of years now, especially in the young population. It is huge. I know in 2012 there were 3,000 deaths in America, but it's not just texting. It can be anything from eating, to lighting a cigarette, anything distracting, but texting is the big one," he said.

The law will take effect Wednesday, Oct. 1. Drivers will also face a 12-point violation in Maryland for distracted driving accidents involving a cellphone.
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