Malone seeks to to tighten cell phone driving ban

January 21, 2013|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

The chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees traffic laws will announce Tuesday that he will introduce legislation that would allow police to pull over a driver using a hand-held cell phone even if the motorist is not committing another offense.

Del. James E. Malone Jr., a Baltimore County Democrat, said Monday that he plans to renew his effort to treat driving while talking on a hand-held phone the same as driving while texting.

Texting while behind the wheel is considered a primary offense, allowing an officer to stop a motorist for that alone. Maryland law makes it illegal to talk on a hand-held phone while driving but officers can only enforce it if the driver is speeding or committing some other traffic infraction while doing so.

In past year, similar legislation has passed the House but stalled in a Senate committee. Malone said he is working with senators to try to win its passage in that chamber this year.

Malone said one reason he believes the ban is needed is to further discourage texting while driving.

"As long as we allow people to have a cell phone in their hand, they're going to text," he said. "People are getting frustrated at people not paying attention."

A separate bill introduced in the Senate by Sen. Nancy J. King, a Montgomery County Democrat, would make use of a hand-held cell phone while driving a primary offense only when a child under the age of 8 is in the vehicle.

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