Almost anyone who drives a car, SUV or commercial truck will have to admit that the safe operation of a motor vehicle is only complicated by the use of a cell phone. While texting has become a nationwide problem when it comes to traffic accidents, just holding a phone while trying to drive can easily cause a wreck. As Maryland personal injury lawyers and automobile accident attorneys, we understand how a moment’s lapse in concentration can lead to disaster.
Serious injuries can result from a collision between two cars, much less an accident involving a commercial delivery truck or 18-wheeler. Depending on the speed at the time of the accident, fatalities can also happen. So why invite disaster by using a cell phone and increasing the odds of being distracted at an inopportune moment? That is apparently what the Maryland state legislature has been mulling this year.
According to news articles covering the state’s General Assembly, a bill introduced a short while ago would punish those drivers who do not use the hands-free function on their cell phones any time that a vehicle is in motion on a public roadway. That includes sitting still in traffic or just waiting for a red light to change.
Based on reports, the bills aim to create as a primary offense the use of hand-held cellphones in a moving motor vehicle and make stoplight use illegal as well. This action is another in a string of legislation that seeks to close the large “loopholes” in current cellphone use laws and make it easier for police to enforcement prohibitions on cellphone use by motorists.
Hoping to amend laws that went into effect last October banning hand-held cell phone use while a vehicle is in motion, the new bill stipulates that cellphone use be illegal any time a car is in a “travel portion of a road.” It makes no distinction between talking while driving a moving vehicle or talking while a car is stopped at a traffic signal or stuck in traffic.
The new legislation would make it a primary offense to use a cellphone without a hands-free headset. Simply put, any time a police officer saw a driver holding a handset to his or her ear, that person could be stopped and issued a ticket. Under current law, a driver must be stopped for another traffic violation — like excessive speed or ignoring a traffic signal — in order to be cited for cellphone use during the alleged offense. This is known as a secondary offense.
Another bill, also in the works, is worded to more clearly define the law that prohibits texting while driving applies to motorists under the age of 18. Legislation is reportedly going to include wording to broaden the prohibition on electronic messages to include emails sent by smartphone users while driving. And, reading any electronic message while driving would also be illegal. According to reports, lawmakers failed to include language that took into account smartphones and other devices that offer email capability.
House passes bill to bar cell phone use in cars, TMCNet.com, March 16, 2011
Maryland Legislators Look to Close Cell Phone Loopholes, Patch.com, February 17, 2011