- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland lawmakers introduced bills yesterday to ban motorists from talking on cell phones and other activities that could distract them while driving.

Among the restricted activities in the “distracted-driving” bill are personal grooming, reading and writing.

“So we’re going to have police officers pulling over women because they saw them put lipstick on?” asked Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Harford County Republican and a member of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which will consider the proposals.

The legislation to ban distracted driving would include a $500 penalty and one point on the driver’s license for the first offense. A second bill would target only cell-phone use and impose a $100 fine.

Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., a Baltimore County Democrat, filed the distracted-driving legislation, which was sponsored in previous General Assembly sessions by Delegate John S. Arnick, a Baltimore County Democrat who died in June. Mr. Stone resubmitted the bill 18 months after his car was totaled by a driver talking on a phone.

The bill also would ban using hands-free cell phones.

The Democrat-controlled legislature failed to pass such legislation in two prior General Assembly sessions and has given the bills a lukewarm reception so far this session.

However, a former opponent of cell-phone restrictions appeared yesterday to soften its position.

A Sprint/Nextel representative testified the company would support legislation to ban distracted driving if it did not single out cell-phone use.

“Keep on going to the overall behavior and that’s something we could get behind,” Sprint/Nextel manager Gary Horewitz said.

Mr. Horewitz and a lobbyist representing Sprint/Nextel were the only two opponents to testify during the hearing.

If the legislation passes, Maryland would join several other states and the District in banning the use of hand-held phones while driving. Maryland two years ago banned the use of hand-held cell phone for drivers younger than 18.

The other bill, introduced by Sen. Michael G. Lenett, a Montgomery County Democrat, would prohibit using hand-held wireless devices while driving but still allow drivers to use headsets.

Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, a Baltimore Democrat and vice chairman of the committee, opposed the bills and said common sense should dictate driving behavior.

“You shouldn’t have to tell the legislature to ban” driving distractions, Miss Gladden said.

The proposals were filed during a broader national effort to limit driving distractions.

The Center for Auto Safety has filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration seeking to restrict the use of Global Positioning System navigating, such driving aids as OnStar by General Motors, and built-in entertainment devices.

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