House Passes Text-Teading Nan; Senate to Vote Mon.

March 3, 2011

The House of Delegates has approved a ban on reading text messages while driving that would broaden a writing and sending prohibition the legislature passed two years ago.

The Senate, which debated the proposal yesterday and today, is set to weigh final approval on Monday. Today, Sen. Allan H. Kittleman abandoned his attempt to include not just electronic messages, but newspapers. The Howard County Republican offered the amendment to draw attention to the many ways drivers can be distracted.

He also offered a tongue-in-cheek amendment to ban eating while driving. It failed 6-41.

Before the House voted overwhelmingly in favor of the plan, several Republicans said it is futile to legislate driving habits. Del. Mike A. McDermott, a new Eastern Shore Republican and longtime police officer, said officers have plenty of tools already to curb bad driver behavior. 

This year, lawmakers have considered making several changes to the state’s relatively new cell phone driving laws. A ban on talking on hand-held cell phones passed last year, but it is a secondary offense, meaning officers can only issue citations if they spot another infraction such as speeding.

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