On Feb. 7, Baltimore County delegates James Malone (D) and A. Wade Kach (R) introduced a bill that would authorize police to pull over a driver speaking on a hand-held cell phone.
As the law is presently written, speaking on hand-held cell phone is a secondary offense, meaning that police can only issue a citation if they see another violation, the Baltimore Sun reported.
The new measure, if adopted into law, makes driving while using a hand-held cell phone a primary offense. Hands-free phone sets would still be legal, and the law makes an exception for calling 911 in an emergency.
Driving while using a cell phone is a primary offense in nine states and the District of Columbia, the Washington Post reported. Texting while driving is already a primary offense in Maryland.
Being distracted by portable digital devices dramatically increases the risk of driving, some experts claim, as much as drunk driving. According to a 2009 study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, texting while driving increases the risk of collision by 23 times.
Texting and talking on the phone while driving is becoming increasingly common, particularly among young people, according to a recent study by State Farm. About 58 percent of all drivers admit talking on a cell phone while driving, and 32 percent say they text, the survey found.
However, among drivers 18-29 years old, 70 percent say they talk on a hand-held phone while driving and almost two-thirds admit to texting while driving, according to the insurance company.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2009 more than 5,000 people were killed and 450,000 injured in distracted driving crashes. NHTSA recommends a national ban on all digital devices while driving, even hands-free phones.
Is it time to treat driving while distracted more seriously?