Stiffer penalties likely for drivers who talk on cellphones -- Gazette.Net


Among the myriad bills expected to pass as the General Assembly prepares to wrap up business Monday is a provision that would allow law enforcement officers to pull over drivers talking on their cellphones.

Under current law, using a hand-held cellphone while driving is a secondary offense, meaning a driver must be committing another offense, like speeding, to be pulled over and ticketed. The new law would make using a hand-held cellphone a primary offense while the vehicle is in motion.

Originally, the bill would have prohibited using a cellphone any time the vehicle was on the road, but some lawmakers objected to prohibiting use when drivers might be stuck in traffic or at a red light, and that language was amended out.

The Senate gave preliminary approval to the bill Tuesday, and the House passed the bill by a wide margin last month.

If the bill passes, as it is expected, Maryland’s law would be similar to Washington, D.C.’s policy on driving and cellphones.

Drivers under 18 would continue to be prohibited under the bill from using wireless devices of any kind — including hands-free devices — while driving.

The proposal also raises the fines for penalties, from $40 to $75 for the first offense, from $100 to $125 for a second offense, and from $100 to $175 for a third or subsequent offense.