Bill would toughen rules for phoning while driving -- Gazette.Net


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A Baltimore County delegate wants to crack down on drivers who use hand-held cellphones by giving police broader power to ticket them.

Del. James E. Malone Jr. (D-Dist. 12A) of Arbutus announced this week that he is proposing legislation to allow police to pull over cellphone users even if they were committing no other offense.

“We do not want anybody to use a cellphone in the roadway,” Malone said. “If you need to use a cellphone, pull over.”

Violators would receive one point on their driver’s license and a fine of up to $500, but first-time offenders could have their citations thrown out if they prove to the court that they’ve purchased a hands-free device, Malone said.

Those using hands-free devices would be exempt from the law, he said.

Currently, it is illegal to use a hand-held phone while driving, but because it isn’t considered a primary offense, police can only penalize drivers if they are pulled over for another violation.

“Cellphone use is absolutely distracted driving and is a known danger,” said state Motor Vehicle Administrator John T. Kuo, who appeared with Malone and other lawmakers at a news conference Tuesday. About 1.2 million vehicle crashes each year involve drivers using cellphones, Kuo said.

A study found more than 6 percent of Maryland drivers used hand-held phones, he said, adding that the state has more than 4 million licensed drivers.

Several lawmakers appeared with Malone at the news conference, including House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis and Del. A. Wade Kach (R-Dist. 5B) of Cockeysville.

dleaderman@gazette.net