|Thursday, September 29, 2011 – John Patti|
|A new law goes into effect Saturday (October 1) that prohibits reading a text message or electronic message while driving in the travel portion of a roadway, even if you are stopped at a traffic light or not in motion.
The Maryland legislature failed an attempt last year to close a loophole with the texting while driving ban which passed in 2009. That bill prohibited writing and sending an electronic message. This new law also bans reading a text message, making it a primary offense. That means you can be pulled over for it.
The law does not apply to the use of a GPS or a text messaging device to contact a 9-1-1 system.
Maryland State police say the offense is punishable by a fine of $70 and one point. However, if the action contributes to an accident, the fine is $110 and carries three points.
The new law was sponsored by Baltimore County Democratic State Senator Jim Brochin who says “when you’re texting, besides being a cerebral event, you can’t look at the road. You are looking down so you can press the right buttons.” Brochin says that’s different from using a cell phone while driving because you can talk on a cell phone and still be looking at the road.
However Republican State Delegate Michael Smigiel from Cecil County says the new law is an infringement on a motorist’s liberties.
Smigiel agrees that texting while driving is “stupid” but says it is no different than looking down to check your speed or to change the radio dial.
Smigiel says the government should not be involved in policing these actions. He says there are other ways to police it suggesting that the insurance industry can take care of that by denying coverage or raising a driver’s deductible when texting while driving leads to an accident..