- Associated Press - Friday, May 9, 2014

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) - Maryland State Police troopers have issued more electronic tickets for distracted driving in the last seven months than they did in all of 2013, according to agency data reflecting enforcement of a new state law targeting drivers using handheld cellphones.

The number jumped after a law took effect Oct 1, making handheld cellphone use behind the wheel a primary offense, The Frederick News-Post reported Friday. Before then, driving while using a mobile device was a secondary offense, meaning drivers couldn’t be pulled over for that reason alone.

“Making it a primary offense has been a deterrent,” said Lt. Todd May of the Maryland State Police barrack in Frederick. “The message has gotten out. Maryland licensed drivers are aware that it is a traffic violation.”

The newspaper (http://bit.ly/1novkGn ) reported that state police issued about 6,800 electronic tickets statewide from Oct. 1 through May 1 for offenses such as using a cellphone or texting behind the wheel. That compares with about 5,000 electronic tickets issued for distracted driving offenses in all of 2013.

Electronic tickets are printed by devices in patrol cars that scan a driver’s license. The figures don’t include handwritten tickets.

Gov. Martin O’Malley cited the new law Friday as one of the factors behind a drop in Maryland traffic fatalities last year to 466, the fewest since 1961.

State Farm insurance spokeswoman Anna Bryant suggested that drivers have a “designated texter” in the car if they need to stay in touch. Those driving alone should pull over before texting, she said.

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Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com