Maryland Car Licensing and Registration Guide

June 11, 2014

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Getting a Maryland Driver’s License

To get your license to drive in Maryland, applicants must show identification, smile for a photo, pay a fee, and take a vision test.

Drivers under the age of 18 have a system of graduated steps called the Rookie Driver Program.  At 15 years and 9 months, the driver can obtain a learner’s permit if they have parental consent, successfully pass a knowledge and vision test, and show proof of attendance of a driver education program.  After nine months with no violations, the driver can take a driving test and passing grants him a provisional license.  The license includes a midnight curfew and other restrictions.  Once the driver turns 18, he is eligible for a full Maryland license.

baltimore harbor maryland

Beyond the standard driver’s license, Maryland also offers commercial, hazardous materials, and motorcycle licenses.  There’s more information about driver’s licenses on Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration’s website.

Keeping Your Maryland License

Driving in Maryland isn’t quite like driving in any other state, due to the array of individual laws in the state. Below are a few high points to know before you drive there; be sure to know the laws of any state in which you are driving.

Maryland Seat Belt Laws

Maryland made a primary offense out of not wearing your seatbelt, unless you’re sitting in the back seat (this is a secondary violation), and you’re over 16.  A primary offense is one that you can get pulled over for even if you’re not doing anything else wrong. Passengers and the driver will get a ticket for up to $50 for not wearing a seatbelt, and a passenger under 16 who is not wearing a seatbelt will earn the driver an additional ticket for each offense.

Maryland Distracted Driving Laws

If you’re in Maryland, don’t use any handheld device while you’re driving or use any cell phone – handheld or hands-free – if you’re under 18 or driving a school bus.  If you live in Maryland, keep your ear to the ground: Maryland legislators have also proposed “Jake’s Law,” which would make causing a fatal accident while distracted a misdemeanor punishable with a $5,000 fine and up to three years in prison.

It’s all right if you are over 18 and are using a hands-free device, or just programming or using your GPS.  If you get caught in violation of the Maryland statute, you’ll be charged $75 for a first offense, $125 for a second, and no more than $175 for a third or subsequent offense.  You will not have any points added to your license, but if you’re under 18, you can have your license suspended for up to 90 days.

Maryland Negligence Standards

Maryland is one of five jurisdictions which still applies contributory negligence.  This standard prevents a plaintiff from recovering anything from a defendant if the defendant can show that the plaintiff was at all at fault in the accident.  For this purposes of contributory negligence, “at fault” is anything against the law – from rolling a stop sign to speeding.

In the speeding example, if someone runs a red light but you were speeding, you may still be unable to get any money.  Part of the reasoning for this is that if you hadn’t been speeding, you wouldn’t have been in that place at that time.  This negligence standard is unusual, but in Maryland, you should be aware and follow all of the laws.

Driving on I-95

Looking to get the low-down on traffic reports in and around Maryland? Our I-95 Traffic Radio Guide will help you learn about traffic jams as they happen, from Miami, Florida to Portland, Maine.

Maryland Driver Safety Facts

Each year, the Maryland Highway Safety office releases a report which summarizes the state’s rate of highway accidents, citations, and fatalities.  The 2014 report (PDF) offers some interesting and potentially useful information, and highlights the importance of having up-to-date and comprehensive car insurance.

Maryland Driver Resources

  • Maryland enacted new driver safety laws in October of 2013.  Learn more about them here.
  • Get a free consumer guide to auto insurance (PDF) from the Maryland Insurance Administration.
  • Explore insurance options for high-risk drivers with the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund.
  • Find a local Motor Vehicle Administration office or renew your registration online.
  • Having issues with your car insurance provider? Visit the Better Business Bureau website for Greater Maryland to file a claim.

Maryland Car Facts

Although it’s a small state, Maryland has an abundance of automotive attractions and history.

  • The Grand Prix of Baltimore is an annual race that takes place on a two-mile course around the city’s beautiful Inner Harbor.
  • Maryland International Raceway in Budd’s Creek is a popular Maryland racetrack.
  • Motocross star Travis Pastrana, a Maryland native, recently became a NASCAR professional driver.
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