ANNAPOLIS – Delegate James E. Malone Jr., D-Baltimore County, does not want you to talk on the phone while you drive.
Tuesday, he proposed legislation that would make it a primary offense to use a cell phone while driving. If passed, a police officer could pull over a driver just for talking on the phone.
Currently, using a hand-held cell phone while driving is a secondary offense, which means the driver must be pulled over for some other offense.
“Now is the time. I don’t think we can wait any longer,” Malone said, at a press conference in Annapolis. The bill would mirror language from the texting ban that was passed last legislative session. Driving while using a hand-held cell phone would be a moving violation, incur a point on the driver’s license and a fine of up to $500.
However, first time offenders who bought hands-free devices and presented them to the court could have their cases dismissed.
Malone introduced similar legislation last year, which failed, but thinks this year will be different. “I feel very confident. We are one vote away to get the bill to the Senate. And I feel like if we get it to the Senate, then it will pass,” Malone said.
Sen. James N. Robey, D-Howard, a former police chief, is again sponsoring the cross-filed bill in the Senate.
“I’m not going to give up on this for as long as I’m in Annapolis. If not this year, we’ll be back next year,” Robey said “It has to be done.”
John Kuo, the administrator of the Motor Vehicle Administration, presented data from the National Safety Council in support of the bill. In 2011, 23 percent of crashes involved cell phones, and 7,894 citations were issued for cell phone usage while driving in Maryland.
“Cell phone use absolutely is distracted driving,” Kuo said.