ANNAPOLIS – On a trip to West Virginia, Maryland Sen. Walter Baker, D- Cecil, said there were so many aggressive drivers on the Capital Beltway, he was afraid to take it home.
And so was born a bill designed to smack aggressive drivers – people who commit two or more traffic violations while speeding – with a five-point ticket. Twelve points are required to revoke a license.
“It seems if you wrap two tons of steel around decent human beings, they become monsters,” said Baker, the chairman of the committee considering the bill he sponsored.
Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee members listened as proponents of stiffer aggressive driving penalties testified in support of the bill. No opponents were present.
“I’d like to make the penalties a hell of a lot stricter,” than five points, Baker said.
But, he acknowledged the difficulty in getting a tougher penalty passed. Baker said he doesn’t foresee any problems getting the bill voted out of committee, it passed unanimously last year but was killed in the House.
However, additional teen driving restrictions also considered by the committee Wednesday don’t look to be in for an easy ride.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Thomas Middleton, D-Charles, would limit to two the number of passengers under age 21 that a driver under 18 could carry. All would have to wear seatbelts. Maryland law requires only front-seat passengers wear seatbelts.
But, Baker said the graduated licensing system passed last session should be given more time before more restrictions are imposed.
The new system, started in July, requires new drivers to hold a learner’s permit for four months, to take driver education training, and to drive at least 40 hours under supervision before a license is granted.
Middleton’s bill has the support of the Motor Vehicle Administration.
“Young people in cars with young drivers are getting killed,” said Anne Ferro, state motor vehicle administrator.
The death rate of minor drivers with passengers under the age of 20 is four times higher than those without passengers, she said.
Baker said he understands the reason for the bill, but wasn’t sure if it was practical because many families depend on older children to drive younger ones. “It seems,” he said, “we’re trying to kill a gnat with a sledgehammer.” -30-