Maryland State Police To Increase Patrols As Motorists Take To The Road Ahead Of Thanksgiving

by Patrick Herron

Per the Maryland State Police: With more than 1 million Marylanders expected to travel 50 or more miles over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Maryland State Police will be increasing patrols to ensure motorists arrive safely at their destination.

Maryland State Police will be conducting saturation patrols at each of the 23 barracks with a focus on impaired, aggressive and distracted driving. The State Police Impaired Driving Reduction Effort team, otherwise known as the SPIDRE team, will also be patrolling this weekend. The goal of the SPIDRE team is to focus on removing these dangerous drivers from Maryland highways who endanger the lives of other motorists. Enforcement will be bolstered by impaired driving saturation patrol funds from the Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration’s Highway Safety Office.

The initiatives, which will take place Wednesday, Nov. 23 through Saturday, Nov. 26, will include saturation patrols in areas known to have a higher number of DUI crashes or arrests. These efforts, in many cases, will include partnering with allied law enforcement and other state agencies to both enforce the law and offer outreach to the community through social media and electronic billboards.

According to AAA, 956,000 Marylanders will be traveling by car to their Thanksgiving destination. This heavy volume increases the chances of a crash involving an impaired, distracted or aggressive driver. The National Safety Council estimated that 518 people may die on U.S. roads this Thanksgiving holiday period.

Motorists can take simple steps toward ensuring this projection does not become a reality. Police urge motorists to plan for a sober driver and avoid driving while impaired. Motorists are also encouraged to  put the cellphone down while behind the wheel and adhere to Maryland’s Move Over laws. Failing to follow these laws can lead to fines and/or imprisonment.

If you are convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI):

  • For a first offense, you face up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail. Twelve (12) points will be assessed on your driving record and your license may be revoked for up to six (6) months.
  • For a second offense, you face a $2,000 fine and up to two years imprisonment (with a mandatory minimum of five days). Twelve (12) points will be assessed on your license and your license may be revoked for up to one year.
  • For two convictions within five years, a mandatory period of suspension will be followed by a minimum required period of participation in the Ignition Interlock Program.
  • You may be required to participate in an alcohol abuse assessment and program.

Maryland law prohibits the use of a handheld cellphone and texting while driving. First-time offenders caught using a cellphone while driving face a maximum of an $83 fine, second-time offenders a maximum of $140 fine and third-time offenders a maximum of $160 fine. Drivers can also be fined $70 and face one point on their driving record if caught texting while driving. If the use of a device contributes to a crash, the fine may increase to $110 and three points on your driving record.

The increased enforcement effort against distracted driving comes after the passage of Jake’s Law. In effect since 2014, Jake’s Law is named after Jake Owen, who was just 5 years old when he was killed in a car accident caused by a distracted driver in 2011. The law states that a driver causing serious injury or death while talking on a handheld cellphone or texting may receive up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine. These are primary offenses and police officers can stop drivers when those activities are observed, regardless of the presence of other violations

Maryland’s Move Over law requires motorists to make a lane change or slow down slow down when approaching any stopped, standing, or parked vehicle displaying warning signals – including hazard warning lights, road flares, or other caution signals including traffic cones, caution signs, or non-vehicular warning signs.

This movement should only be done if another lane in the same direction is available and the move can be made safely and without impeding other traffic.  If moving to another lane away from the stopped vehicle is not possible, the law requires drivers to slow to a reasonable and prudent speed that is safe for existing weather, road, and vehicular or pedestrian traffic conditions. Violating the law is a misdemeanor carrying a $110 fine and one point on your license. If the violation causes a crash, the fine is $150 and three points. If there is a death or serious injury, the fine is $750 and three points.

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