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Using Caution When Traveling Between D.C., Virginia, and Maryland: Handheld Device Laws are not Always the Same

Many residents of northern Virginia commute to and from the District of Columbia every day, whether for work or other obligations. With border states in such close proximity, Virginia drivers and D.C. drivers often become accustomed to the laws and nuances of their home state and forget to alter their driving behaviors when traveling into neighboring states. To avoid problems, let’s take a look at the different rules in these three states.

The Law in Virginia

In general, Virginia drivers may still use their cell phones while driving. However, there are a few simple limitations. First, texting and driving is illegal for everyone. Second, cell phone use is off limits for the following: student drivers, commercial drivers while on duty, and minors. Keep in mind that Senate Bill 778 proposes changes to this law, which would take effect this year if fully passed.

The Law in the District of Columbia

Things change a little when you cross into D.C. In our nation’s capital, no driver may use a handheld device. This means no texting, no handheld cell phones or tablets, and no holding the device while using speakerphone functions. This is a departure from Virginia’s more relaxed laws. In D.C., the law allows drivers to use an installed speaker system, speakerphone function (provided the device is mounted and not in the driver’s hand), Bluetooth and wired headsets, and similar technology that avoids any need to hold the device. Texting remains completely illegal. Likewise, bus drivers, novice drivers, and commercial drivers of all sorts may not use cell phones at all. The exception for all drivers is the use of 911 or 311 services.

The Law in Maryland

Finally, Maryland law is slightly more vague in its application. For instance, in Maryland, texting is entirely illegal. However, adults may use a handheld device for the sole purpose of initiating or ending a call, to turn the phone on or off, or to dial emergency services, including 911. On the other hand, minors may not use handheld or hands-free devices, except for dialing 911. Likewise, much like D.C., commercial drivers, bus drivers, and those with learner’s permits may not use a device except for dialing an emergency number. Any violations are considered primary offenses in Maryland. This means an officer can pull you over without observing any other violations.

Playing it Safe

When traveling from one state to another in the northern Virginia and D.C. metro area, you should use caution and play it safe. Virginia drivers have the most relaxes standard in the region – for now – but if driving into the D.C. metro area, it is best to put away the phone altogether. If you must use a cell phone, use handheld devices. A good Bluetooth headset is still permissible for most adult drivers in all three states. When in doubt, put it down.

With traffic accidents on the rise, it is important to be as safe as possible and devote 100 percent of your attention to the road. If you or someone you love is seriously injured by a distracted driver in Leesburg, Manassas or Loudoun county, contact Simms Showers, LLP for a free consultation to learn more about your rights.

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