The Maryland General Assembly’s 2012 session is a few weeks into its session, and as of yesterday, 259 bills have been introduced in the House. Three of them seek to expand on the State’s cell phone ban; HB55 and HB104 were introduced last week. More recently, HB123 was introduced earlier this week.
HB123 was introduced by Delegate Galen R. Clagett. The bill is not much different than HB104, jointly introduced by Delegates Edward Malone and Wayne Kach last week. Yet, there is one fundamental difference in the language we would like to make you aware of.
The wordings are subtle, but would change how one would be able to use a hand-held device in Maryland. For example, HB104 prohibits the use of a hand-held device “IN THE TRAVEL PORTION OF THE ROADWAY,” while HB123 uses the language,”while operating a motor vehicle.” These changes in wording affect three areas. Otherwise, HB104 and HB123 are identical.
One of the areas affected by the change in language is the use of a phone by those under 18. In essence, HB104 would allow your teenager to pull to the side of the road, and contact you should the need arise. Legal scholars can wrangle over the meaning of HB123, but to us, it sounds as though your teenager will have to find a place to park the vehicle, and at least turn off the engine before calling you.
Both bills do contain language that eases our concern that Maryland would seek to adopt the National Transportation Safety Board(NTSB) recommendations banning the use of hands-free or bluetooth devices.
According to language contained in both bills, a judge may waive the penalty for an infraction, if among other stipulations, a person can prove they have “…acquired a hands–free accessory, an attachment or add–on, a built–in feature, or an addition for the person’s hand-held telephone that will allow the person to operate a motor vehicle in accordance with this section.”
Both bills are scheduled for hearings on February 7 at 1 P.M. Any changes or merging of the two pieces of legislation could occur at this time. We will keep you posted on any changes.