Maryland Senate passes legislation banning text-messaging while driving

By Leslie Shirk

Ever get a text message during the commute, travel or trip home for winter and spring breaks, or even for weekend visits? One’s natural inkling would be to type on his or her sidekick and text away. So what’s the problem with responding quickly to a seemingly harmless text message? Though states are beginning to take action, there are still many states that don’t have a ban on text messaging or general cell phone use.

The District of Columbia and Virginia already have these laws in effect, and now Maryland has decided to join them.

As of March 14, 2008, the Maryland Senate voted to toughen driving laws. Not only did they decide to inflict 10 p.m. curfews on 16-year-old drivers, but a close vote (23-21) has managed to approve a bill banning cell phone use while driving. The main cause for these stricter laws: people. More specifically teens texting while driving, or gabbing away on their phones. After countless accidents, ranging from minimal injuries to fatalities, officials found a need for the ban.

“I’m for the law,” said sophomore Anna Miglioretti, a sophomore, “because it pulls your attention from the road and instead of focusing on the road you’re focusing on the text.”

Junior Chelsea Chapman says, “It’s extremely dangerous [to text] while driving, because even if you’ve memorized where the keys are on the phone, less attention is given to the road.”

Under this new law, Maryland officials comment that, like the District of Columbia and Virginia, drivers will be allowed to use hands-free devices connected to their cell phones. However, if caught on their phone without a hands-free device, they will face a $50 fine.

This does however, pose an interesting obstacle for college students who are leaving campus and driving home, specifically those driving to other states that do allow texting.

Sarah Shank, a senior and Florida resident said, “I’m for the ban because personally I wouldn’t be comfortable enough to text while driving, since I don’t really feel like I have the whole texting thing down well enough regularly. Plus, mine [texts] wouldn’t make any sense if I did.”

Sadly, drivers don’t seem to realize how dangerous it can be to text while driving, since it takes their eyes off the road and focuses them on their phone screen instead.

In addition to the proposed bill by the Maryland Legislature to ban cell phone use while driving, the text-messaging ban is subsequently well under way as well, since this would come as a packaged deal.

“I do [text] while I drive and believe I can handle it, but at the same time, I know it’s wrong to do,” said junior MJ Alexander.

However, with the benefit of banning cell phone and text messaging use while driving also comes the question of, why not ban other things such as smoking while driving, such as eating, or changing with the radio?

MJ Alexander said, “You’re using maybe a hand, it’s like eating an apple or changing a CD. All that should be banned if this is the case because it all takes your attention off the road.”

The Senate is still awaiting a verdict from the House, which will make or break this bill’s case. Ironically, several Senators who would have usually voted against such a bill have surprised the Senate with their decisions to support and promote safer driving.