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Proposed Bill Would Increase Penalty For Crashes Caused By Distracted Driving

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Christie Ileto joined WJZ's News Team in the fall of 2012. She was...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — A heartbroken Maryland mother pushes for change in Annapolis. Three years after losing her young son to a texting-related crash, she made an emotional appeal to toughen up Maryland’s distracted driving laws.

Christie Ileto has details on the proposed law that includes jail time.

A fatal car crash killed 5-year-old Jake Owens. The driver at fault got two tickets and a $1,000 fine.

“No call or text should be more important than someone else’s life,” said Jake’s mom, Susan Yum.

Yum is still trying to make sense of what happened in 2011 and is fighting now to change the status quo.

State lawmakers hear “Jake’s Law,” which says drivers distracted by hand-held cell phones causing serious injury or death could face a misdemeanor with up to three years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

“It’s important to deter people from being in situations where they are distracted and I think a law like that would be a good measure,” said driver Roy Anderson.

“Just the other day I was behind somebody and they were swerving all over and I couldn’t move quick enough to get around,” said driver Don Luther. “They were sitting there texting.”

Supporters of the bill say crashes caused by drivers distracted on their cell phones typically only result in traffic violations.

“It’s a start. If someone is injured for life, three years isn’t enough, is it?” said a woman who asked to be identified only as Agnes.

But some lawmakers say there are holes in the proposal. Delegate Michael Smigiel said that if cell phones are illegal, people could still use laptops or other electronics.

The proposal also includes 12 points on your license.

A survey released last month shows 75 percent of Marylanders polled think distracted driving should include jail time as well as fines.

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