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March 7, 2011

Senate passes ban on reading texts while driving

Annie Linskey reports:

The state Senate gave final approval Monday night to a bill that would prohibit motorists from reading text messages while driving, moving the issue toward the governor's desk.

The legislation would close a loophole lawmakers left open two years ago when they banned drivers from writing texts while driving. That legislation remained silent on reading the messages.

“Texting is blowing up,” said Sen. James Brochin, who led the effort to ban reading the electronic messages while driving. The bill passed 35 to 11.

“One more year of legislators on the road and seeing someone who was not paying attention cause a near accident is enough to give anyone pause,” the Baltimore County Democrat said. His bill also covers reading emails.

The National Safety Council estimates that 28 percent of all traffic accidents involve a motorist talking on a cell phone or texting while driving.

But in a lively Senate debate last week Republicans argued Maryland’s proposed ban overreaches. Why not criminalize reading a newspaper or book while driving? Why not make it illegal to drink a soda behind the wheel?

Brochin said reading a text requires more time and attention because it is interactive.

“People glance at a newspaper,” Brochin said. “When you are reading a text, you want to get all of it.”

The bill also covers motorists who are stopped at traffic signals or stop signs. Brochin argued that those who check their phones when stopped temporarily become absorbed in their messaging and frequently fail to start moving when a light changes, throwing off other motorists.

Checking a GPS application on a smart phone would still be allowed under Brochin’s bill.

A similar ban on texting sponsored by Del. James Malone passed in the House last week 115 to 23.

Malone, a Baltimore County Democrat, is hoping the texting ban will be paired with another bill he is sponsoring to strengthen legislation the General Assembly passed last year that prohibits talking on cell phone while driving.

Violating that rule is a secondary offense, meaning police can stop drivers only if they are violating another law. But Malone is pushing to empower officers to pull over anyone talking on their phone without a hands-free device. A measure that would do that was voted out of committee last week.

Malone said he believes drivers initially adhered to the cell phone ban when it went into effect in October, but became more willing to violate it as they learned they could not be pulled over for just talking while driving.

There’s been scant enforcement of the texting ban since it was passed last year: Police issued little more than 200 citations, according the Maryland District Court. The penalty is a $500 fine.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 9:30 PM | | Comments (20)


What about checking facebook?

Absolutely appalling. Maryland should be ashamed of this. I'm not a very happy citizen right now with taxes I pay to keep this state going.

$500 fine for just glancing at your phone for 1 second?

Maryland's so broke right now they've resorted to "Stealing"



$500 for texting--is this a typo? It is $40 for a speed camera. $75 for a red light camera. Maybe it supposed to read $50?

Blah, blah, blah. Angry men should have to make the phone calls to let loved ones know their family members have died or are injured in an accident because they were talking on the phone while driving. If you haven't made that call, shut the hell up and pull over. Or, pop the cork and have a shot or two and get behind the wheel.. same effect!

sad or senate has nothing better to vote on banning reading texts but its ok to take your attention away from driving to read billboards and signs on buses sad the state of maryland has gotten still out of control

What about changing songs on your radio/ipod?
Eating a sandwich isn't interactive?

Speed cameras, lowering speed limits (even hiding signs behind shrubbery), higher insurance rates, now banning text messaging? It seems the 18-35 year old generation is under assault by the older, slower, more frightened citizens of Maryland; who happen to vote in higher/greater numbers.

Nanny state on steroids. Not to mention how completely unenforceable this is. How is a cop to know that you were reading a text message as opposed to doing however many other activities that a smart phone is capable of doing. Couldn't you just as easily be reading a direction on the Maps feature of your iPhone? It's times like these that I think to myself how glad I am that I left the state and took my income tax money with me.

You're right on JAS. If the fine is really $500 it certainly merits one's fighting it in court. You shouldn't need an attorney, just tell the judge that it wasn't a text message or the phone wasn't on or . . . you name it. There's no way a cop could possible swear any differently unless he had CSI do a complete investigation, then a $500 fine wouldn't cover the State's cost. Not a problem though, when revenues from this grab don't meet expectations they'll put in for another $.20 on the gas tax.

Can I look at my GPS? Can I look at a newspaper while waiting fro the red light?
Can I change my radio or find a new CD to play? Can I shave? Can my wife put on her makeup?

What a bunch these legislators are! They must be the lowest common denominator of idiots.

This is ridiculous.

i hope the TSA will soon be patting me down before i can get in my car.

Why all the anger people? It seems like a common sense public safety measure to me. We'll all be safer on the roads, even you angry people. Is it so necessary to text and talk while driving? Seems the world got by just fine (even safer) before these devices were so prevalent.

This issue is not about telling motorist they can not text or talk while driving. Or even making the roads safe. This boils down to one thing....Big Government. This is just another example of the liberal government invading our personal lives. We all take driving tests therefore we should know the laws and repercussions of our actions. If you commit a motor violation because you are on the phone, well that is too bad. Pay the fines, serve the jail time, etc... People will learn when we start holding them accountable.

Hey dude, relax man, this will make the roads safer, even for you, whether you want it to or

Until they put some teeth in the law, it doesn't make any difference. I'm furious that cell phone use is allowed at all while driving. People are still yakking away, and they will still text until we make it a primary offense. No phone crap is worth someone's life.

I saw a man change lanes and run another car off the road because he wasn't paying attention...nope, he didn't have a cell in his hands, he was just plain being a moron. On a separate occasion, I passed a lady with a notebook propped up on her steering wheel writing with a pen in her other hand...again, no cell, just negligence. I saw another lady eating a slice of pizza while driving, and I've been seeing A LOT of elderly drivers swerving and impeding traffic. But, I have also seen the texting/talking while swerving and endangering others. Point is, if they are going to make texting illegal, but not using the gps on your iPhone, or make talking on the cell illegal, but not eating or reading the paper, then we should be very curious what the motivation is here.

When Virginia had the aggressive driver fees I didn't get caught. When the laws are tough you just have to accommodate yourself to them.

As a law enforcement officer of this state I think that this is a great law being passed. You dont know how many accidents I've responded to that the cause is from someone texting or not paying attention while on their phone. Texing while driving is just as dangerous as drinking and driving. And for all of you who think an officer can't find a way to prove you were texting, we can. Its not hard to tell if you're reading a text or writing a text. As long as I can articulate what I saw, you will be found guilty. All I'm going to say is if I catch you texting or reading texts while driving YOU WILL GET A CITATION.

Texting while the vehicle is moving is stupid and should be banned. But a $500 fine for reading a message at a red light? Really? What's next, a ban on talking to passengers? Government is out of control.

I don't have any plans to stop reading or writing messages when I'm sitting still at what I know is a long light. Come and get me.

any phone usage while driving should be prohibited. that's common sense.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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