Lawmaker: Drivers “Not Paying Attention” With Cell Phones

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 – Robert Lang
Supporters of Maryland’s four month old ban on cell phone use while driving say the law is filled with loopholes, and they want lawmakers to stop it.

Baltimore County Democratic Delegate James Malone sponsored three bills that were the focus of a hearing by the House Environmental Matters Committee on Tuesday.

One bill would make using a cell phone while driving a primary offense, meaning police officers could stop motorists they see using the phone or texting.  Under current law, it is a secondary offense, meaning a police officer has to stop a driver for another offense if they want to give them a ticket for using a cell phone.

Malone told the committee, where he serves as vice chairman, that drivers understand the loophole and continue to talk and text while driving. 

Malone’s bill to ban the use of any kind of handheld wireless device while a driver is at a stop sign or stoplight also received a hearing today.

Malone said he did not want drivers to use cell phones sitting at stop lights.

“They’re not paying attention. They are worried about making a call, completing a call.  That’s Jimmy Malone’s personal opinion,” Malone told the committee.

Malone, a retired firefighter,   also sponsored a bill that would ban reading of text messages while driving.  In 2009, lawmakers banned writing and sending text messages, but not reading them.

A Senate version of this bill also received a hearing today. 

Police, transportation and insurance officials testified in favor of Malone’s bills.  No opponents testified.

No committee vote has been scheduled.

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