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New Bill Makes Talking On Handheld Cell Phone While Driving Primary Offense

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Christie Ileto 370 x 278 Christie Ileto
Christie Ileto joined WJZ's News Team in the fall of 2012. She...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—State lawmakers are cracking down on drivers who talk on handheld cell phones when they’re behind the wheel.

Christie Ileto explains what’s in store for distracted drivers.

Right now, if you’re talking on a handheld cell phone while driving, police can only pull you over if you’ve committed another traffic violation like speeding.

But that could soon change, and the penalties could get stiffer.

Drivers talking on handheld cell phones could soon face tougher punishment.

“I would hate to come head on with someone who is texting or on the phone,” said Nina Land, Maryland driver.

A new bill makes talking on handheld cell phone while driving a primary offense–just like texting. If an officer sees you with a phone to your ear, he or she could then pull you over.

Right now officers can only do that if you’ve committed another traffic offense like speeding.

City bus driver Maurice Wheeleo says he thinks it’s a good idea.

“I’m tired of getting cut off by people talking on their cell phones,” he said.

“They can’t have it in their hand whatsoever, hopefully they’ll adhere to the law,” said State Rep. James Malone.

Malone is driving the bill through Annapolis.

Not only does it become a primary offense, but fines increase for offenders as high as $500 and could add points to your license.

Maryland driver Dan Kress just got caught in New York.

“I got a ticket. I was kind of irritated, but then again I was talking on the phone,” Kress said.

As for the issue here.

“I’m kind of in the middle of the fence,” Kress said.

But AAA says it’s a step in the right direction.

“We think that goes a long way to motivating motorists to change their habits when it comes to handheld cell phone use while driving,” said Christine Delise, AAA Mid-Atlantic.

While many Marylanders support the proposal, some critics says there are other distractions on the road that are legal.

“I do use the headset because I can’t pay attention and steer, but I don’t know if the fines should be that stiff,” said Elizabeth Cross.

But some drivers say the decision is a no brainer.

“It’s life or death in this situation,” Land said.

The bill passed in the state House, and will next be voted on in the state Senate.

Talking on a hand cell phone while driving is illegal and a primary offense in nine other states and the District of Columbia.

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