Maryland Lawmakers Ban Hand-Held Phones While Driving

April 12, 2010

Maryland drivers will have to use handsfree devices to talk on cell phones while driving under legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly on Friday.

The House of Delegates voted 125-14 to pass a measure already approved by the Senate, sending the legislation to Gov. Martin O’Malley who plans to sign the bill.

Drivers will only be able to use their hands to turn a phone on and off, under the legislation. They also will not be allowed to hold a cell phone during the conversation while driving.

Drivers could be fined $40 for first violations, but could only be pulled over if they are committing another offense as well, such as running a stop light.

Critics, including Delegate Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil, said the measure was “overreaching and unnecessary.” He tried to pass a flurry of amendments to water the bill down, but all of them were rejected.

Smigiel said the state doesn’t have laws against eating or putting makeup on, noting he once saw a person eating a crab while going down the road. He said the state interferes too much with residents’ lives.

“Stop the nanny state,” Smigiel said.

But Delegate Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore, said dangerous distractions have multiplied beyond a simple phone call, because people can now play games, go on the Internet, take photographs and make videos with their cell phones.

“They’re not just making phone calls,” McIntosh said. “They’re multitasking as they drive down the highway, and our kids are doing it too.”

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