Cellphone Driving Ban in Doubt
A proposal passed narrowly by the Senate last week to prohibit the use of hand-held cellphones while driving in Maryland received a mixed reaction in the House of Delegates yesterday.
Following a hearing on the cellphone ban in the House Environmental Matters Committee, some committee leaders said they would fight to oppose the measure, signaling that its prospects for passage may be in jeopardy. The bill would have to pass the committee before full consideration on the House floor.
Still, other committee members support the proposal, including Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore), the committee chairwoman, and said they believe momentum is building to pass the bill in the closing days of the legislative session. After considerable debate, the Senate voted 26 to 21 to pass the bill.
Under the proposal, driving while using a cellphone without a hands-free accessory would be a secondary offense, meaning a violator could be cited if pulled over for another traffic offense.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Michael G. Lenett (D-Montgomery), testified before the House committee yesterday. He said many other states, as well as the District, have adopted similar laws.
"This is a growing trend that is becoming national and I don't know why Maryland would be so far behind," Lenett said.
McIntosh said last week that she will push hard for the bill's passage in her committee. But Del. James E. Malone Jr. (D-Baltimore County), the committee's vice chairman, said he thinks the committee will be divided on the issue.
Del. Barbara A. Frush (D-Prince George's), a leading committee member, said she will vote against the bill.
"I think people don't like government consistently interfering in their lives," Frush said. "In trying to protect people, we overprotect to the point that we're in the middle of everything we do."
But Virginia P. Clagett (D-Anne Arundel), another leading member, said she has long supported the cellphone ban.
"I don't know what is the year for it, but, you know, each year I try," Clagett said.
-- Philip Rucker
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