ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Too many Maryland drivers are still talking on handheld cell phones because a ban on using them while driving can only be enforced if they commit another violation, a lawmaker who supports a stronger law said Tuesday.

Delegate James Malone, D-Baltimore County, is sponsoring legislation that would make the ban a primary offense, instead of a secondary offense. That means a police officer could pull someone over after observing a driver talking on a handheld cell phone. Under current law, police can only issue a citation for talking on a cell phone while driving after another violation is observed.

“As more and more people were finding out that it was a secondary offense, and what a secondary offense meant, more and more people started using the phone again,” Malone said Tuesday before a bill hearing on the legislation. “I just think this is something we truly need to do.”

Maryland became the eighth state to ban drivers from talking on a handheld cell phone in October. Offenders can be fined $40 for first violations and $100 for subsequent ones. Drivers can use handsfree cell phone devices to talk on phones while driving.

Maryland banned drivers from sending text messages in 2009, but drivers can still read text messages.

Malone and other lawmakers trying to strengthen that law as well. Malone is sponsoring separate legislation to ban the reading of text messages while behind the wheel. Sen. Jim Brochin, D-Baltimore County, also is sponsoring a bill in the Senate to ban the reading of text messages while driving.

“It’s distracting. Period,” Brochin said. “We need to finish what we started here.”

The National Safety Council, an organization that focuses on workplace and highway safety, estimates that talking or texting on a cell phone is responsible for 1.6 million crashes in the United States a year, about 28 percent of all crashes.

More than 380 people have died from distracted driving crashes in Maryland in the last five years, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (10)
  1. RS1981 says:

    I had it the one day while on my way to work I saw a car driving a little erratically, and wondered if the driver was careless. As I got closer to my exit I watched him go from the slow lane, & quickly whip over to the fast lane, and after less than a minute, whip his vehicle back over into the slow lane. As I was able to pass him, I saw him yakking on his cell phone, and his wife didn’t seem to mind one bit. By the time I would’ve been able to get ahold of the cops, he would’ve already been off of the road. Today as I was heading to work I had a woman in a truck nearly rear end me a few times, because she was following so close. It wasn’t until I got closer to work, I saw her mouth moving and saw her phone pressed to her ear. Yesterday I had a nearly identical thing happen. It’s amazing that these people do these things, and no one does nothing to them. What’s it going to take to get it corrected ? A death of someone with money ?

    1. Matt Harrison says:

      its called break check they get off the phone real quick

  2. Joyce says:

    I feel all cellphone usage while behind the wheel should be an offense. I see people talking on cellphones while driving and they drive across the lines, slow to below the speed limit, and seem to totally unaware of the other drivers on the road. I don’t want to be a statistic due to someone elses carelessness.

  3. Michael says:

    Since I have observed uniformewd opfficers in marked cars using their cell ohone while driving, I find the enforcement of such a law to be suspect.

  4. Kelly says:

    Delagatge Malone is nothing but a Gasbag. He champions these ridiculous laws but is often seen driving around the Arbutus area talking on his cell phone. We’re facing a budget deficit, massive tax increases, gas tax increase and all this clown can do is sponsor legislation to make it a crime to text, talk or hold a phone while driving. What difference does it make if I’m holding a phone in one hand or a steak sub? Tell Malone and Deboy to get a life and get a real job. Their 15 minutes is up

  5. Signtopia says:

    I agree that the use of a cell phone while driving is dangerous and a distraction and may cause accidents……….but……then again, the same goes for reading books, putting on makeup, toying with gps navigation systems, radios, mp3 players, having children in a car is a distraction. To single out one thing negates the seriousness of what is actually just irresponsible driver behavior. The authorities are simply cashing in on a trend. This, like the speed cameras. is nothing but an effort to generate money via fines. Also, such laws and efforts to enact them, in the guise of “safety concerns” is bogus. You and I cannot use the cell phone but Baltimore police are all issued a Blackberry? They also have a laptop computer tilted toward their face as they drive!

  6. ratm33 says:

    I want a law that also includes police officers. If i take a picture of a police officer driving while talking than he should be suspended w/o pay. They are supposed to set an example. The problem is they are above the law and that is why they can do what they want.

  7. Ernie says:

    then they will just pass a law making it illegal to take pictures while driving.

  8. James says:

    Law makers want to penalize the average man…. why not make the cell phone carriers come up with a program that wont allow the cell phone to work if it is moving faster than 5 MPH ? I mean come on…. we got all this technology, surely, since most phones have GPS on them now they can write a program to stop the phone from placing the call or sending the text or receiving the call or text. Penalize the business that is making all the money.

    1. steve says:

      Because then what about a passenger, or on a train, or running, or on a bike. People just shouldn’t be idiots and not drive wile on the phone. It is a huge distraction and I have yet to see someone drive well under any condition where a phone is being used, whether on the handset or through Bluetooth. Its not the driving with one hand thats the issue, it the fact that your mind is focused on the conversation and not the road.

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