Maryland bill targeting distracted driving dies

| Thursday, May 10, 2007

A bill has died in the Maryland Senate that was intended to help curb “distracted driving” in the state.

Sponsored by Sen. Norman Stone, D-Baltimore, the bill remained in a Senate committee at the deadline to advance from the chamber to the House. The effort cannot be brought back for consideration until the 2008 regular session.

Stone’s bill – SB30 – would have prohibited any action that distracts drivers from the road. Not only would the legislation have banned drivers from talking on hand-held cell phones while at the wheel, but it would have outlawed such actions as, reading, writing, grooming, interacting with animals, or “any other activity that distracts the person’s attention.”

The distracted driving provision was included to address complaints that chatting on cell phones isn’t the only activity that distracts from the task of driving, Stone told The Associated Press.

Violations of the rule would have been a secondary offense – meaning a person would have to be pulled over for another violation, such as speeding, before they could be ticketed for engaging in a distracting activity. Violators would have faced up to $500 fines and a one-point driver’s license penalty. Emergency calls would have been exempted.

The bill also would have prevented people age 18 or older with learner’s permits or school bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. Maryland law now prohibits drivers younger than 18 with learner’s permits from using any hand-held devices.

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