Hagerstown, Maryland -
HAGERSTOWN, Md. - Legislation toughed the penalties for using a cell phone while driving last October and state troopers say they're already seeing a difference.
"I think it is working. A lot the people we end up stopping know better. You know so we're getting the feedback from the traffic stops that we make they know the law and they're either violating it or they forget," said Lt. Michael Fluharty, Commander for the Maryland State Police Hagerstown Barrack.
District Court of Maryland statistics show from October 1, 2013 to April 1, 2014, 14,490 drivers have been charged with using a cell phone while driving. That's triple the amount of tickets before the stricter law was effective. Before the law, from March 2013 to September 2013, 4,096 drivers were ticketed for driving while using a cell phone and another violation.
Locally, troopers have seen an increase in violations but they hope to see a decrease in the next six months and that drivers take the law seriously.
"Just put the phone down," said Lt. Fluharty. "Ok drive, make that your priority. Because the life you save may be your own in a situation like that. The second you take your eyes from the road to look at your phone, that's when the car in front of you stopping and that's when accidents happen."
In Maryland, the ticket violation for cell phone usage while driving is $83 for first-time violators, $140 for second-time violators and $160 for third-time violators.
Many drivers support the law. They say the roads are now safer for everyone.
"It's a distraction. Obviously. It's in your hand. If something's in your hand, it's on the steering wheel, you're not paying attention," said Jeannette Herrell, Hagerstown resident.
"Right now we kind of need to send the message people that hey this is important let's get people's attention if we have to do that it's unfortunate i think . But people's lives are little more important," said Rob Freibaum, Middletown resident.
And the exception to the rule is during an emergency but even then troopers advise drivers pullover first.
Troopers are also reminding drivers that May is "Click It or Ticket" month. They'll be out on the roads enforcing seat belt safety.