By Pat Warren

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — The negligence of texting while driving could carry stricter penalties as Jake’s Law moves through the General Assembly.

Pat Warren reports the House voted on the bill Friday.

The House voted 111-25 to increase penalties for drivers who cause serious injury or death texting while driving.

Taking your eyes off the road to respond to a text can have disastrous consequences.

This video is part of a national campaign to discourage texting while driving. There are already laws in Maryland against it, but in the case of five-year-old Jake Owen, the penalty paid for his death was a $5,000 fine.

“He drove the length of five football fields nearly blind, and according to the data retrieval device in his car, he did not even apply his brakes when he hit us,” Jake’s mother, Susan Yum, said.

Jake’s Law classifies accidents caused by handheld devices that result in serious injury or death as misdemeanors, with up to three years in jail and a $5,000 fine. Some argued the same penalties should apply to all distracted driving.

“If you’re going to put in a bill that says we’re going to treat this differently because there’s an accident and somebody’s dead, it ought to be somebody who’s so distracted, they’re using this [a computer],” said Del. Mike Smigiel, (R) Eastern Shore.

The bill passed despite those and other concerns that drivers would be forced to turn over their phones in the course of accident investigations and that some unavoidable circumstances, like 911 calls and Amber Alerts, should be exempt.

That bill, Jake’s Law, is now in the Senate.

Forty-nine percent of adults in an AT&T survey last year admitted to texting while driving.

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