Maryland distracted driving update: A get-tough bill that upgrades enforcement of the state’s existing handheld cell phone law to primary status has cleared the House and Senate. The measure also would make significant increases in fines for distracted driving violations.
First offenses will bring a $75 fine. A second offense could bring a ticket of up to $125, and a third to $175. The current fine for violations range from $40 to $100. The plan to assign points was removed by amendments.
The removal of the secondary enforcement provision of the handheld cell phone law means police can stop and cite violators for that reason alone.
The bill, sent to the governor on April 8, was a rerun of previously unsuccessful legislation by Del. James Malone. “They can’t have (a cell phone) in their hand whatsoever,” Malone says. The legislature did water down the penalties in the original bill.
Two other 2013 bills also sought to remove the secondary enforcement limitation on the state’s existing handheld cell phone law.
State Sen. Nancy King puts a spin on the enforcement issue. Her Senate Bill 193 of 2013 specifies primary enforcement if a child under the age of 8 is in the vehicle when the driver violates Maryland’s handheld cell phone law. King, D-Montgomery County, also sponsors a bill seeking to increase penalties for not safely securing a child in a vehicle.
The state made several technical adjustments to its existing distracted driving laws during the 2012 legislative session. They included a separation of cell phones and texting devices under the legal definition of a “wireless communication device.”
Text messaging prohibited for all drivers.
Handheld cell phone use banned for all drivers. Fines between $40 and $100.
Drivers under the age of 18 prohibited from any use of cell phones.