'Jake’s Law' Crackdown on Crashes Caused by Cell Phone Use Approved by House

About 28 percent of Maryland drivers texted while driving in the past six months, according to a recent poll.

Distracted driving laws are under review in the Maryland General Assembly, which could increase fines and add prison time. (Credit: Verona Patch)
Distracted driving laws are under review in the Maryland General Assembly, which could increase fines and add prison time. (Credit: Verona Patch)

Distracted drivers using their cellphone or texting when they cause a crash that kills or seriously injures another person face tougher penalties under a bill approved Friday by the Maryland House of Delegates.

The house voted 111 to 25 to approve legislation that would add penalties and require suspected distracted drivers to immediately provide police with information about their cellphones, says The Washington Post. Similar legislation is pending in the Maryland Senate.

Maryland already bans the use of hand-held cellphones in nearly all cases while driving. Under the House version of the bill, someone convicted of substantially contributing to a crash that results in death or serious injury to another while using a cellphone or texting would face up to one year in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. An earlier version of the legislation called for up to three years.

A driver talking on his cellphone crashed into a Baltimore family’s car, killing their 5-year-old son. Maryland law only allowed for a $1,000 fine in the case, spurring the legislation known as “Jake’s Law” to increase the penalties faced by distracted drivers.

The bill is named for Jake Owen, a Baltimore native who died when a driver crashed into his family’s car on Dec. 28, 2011. The other driver, a 23-year-old man who was talking on his cellphone, never noticed traffic around him had stopped for a previous accident on Interstate 83.

The driver was charged with negligent driving and failure to control speed to avoid collision—punishable by a total of $1,000 in fines. While he had also been charged with vehicular manslaughter, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine, he was not convicted.

“We think it’s a great start, but I think we still have a lot of work to do,” Jake’s mother, Susan Yum, told the Post when the House bill was sent to the floor. “We’re cautiously hopeful that we’ll get this through.”

Marylanders are no exception. An OpinionWorks poll cited by a non-profit group founded in memory of Jake said that 28 percent of Maryland drivers, or 1.1 million drivers, texted while driving within the past six months.

“Handheld cellphone use while driving is the new drunk driving,” said Yum. “Yet society seems to find this behavior somewhat acceptable.”

The same poll showed that 75 percent of those surveyed supported the law, with a margin of error of 3.5 percent, according to OpinionWorks.

Our earlier story:

'Jake’s Law' Proposes Crackdown on Deadly Cell Phone Use


Ashley Virginia March 17, 2014 at 04:17 PM
there was a Baltimore County police officer behind me the other day and he was both texting and messing with his laptop. I am sorry but if a cop suspects me of texting a driving and pulls me over and I have to give him my cell phone information when my phone is in the bottom of my purse that is BS. and could get you in trouble for anything. I have both text to speech and Bluetooth. I use my Bluetooth to text all the time and for it to read me my text messages. Some cars now come standard where your texts will flash on your dashboard if you have your phone connected to your car.
You March 17, 2014 at 04:56 PM
@Ashley... I feel ya! I use hands free bluetooth through my radio to cell. I say, "answer" and it answers and I talk just as if someone where sitting next to me. As far as cops go... that is my biggest issue as I everyday see cops on patrol driving while talking or texting on their cell phones while driving down the local roads. Lead by example is the way I see it and if our law officers ignore the laws... why would others comply? I personally cannot stand people texting or holding a cell phone while driving it annoys me so bad... mostly because I obey the laws and choose to follow the laws which are in place for our general safety.
Ashley Virginia March 18, 2014 at 12:11 PM
Not just that, a cop could pull a suspect over that is part of an investigation and say "O you were texting and driving or on your phone. I need your cell phone information." Which requires a search warrant. This violates the 5th Amendment and if passed can be declared Unconstitutional. Laws are not supposed to violate our right. Now I am not saying that Jake didn't have rights. He did. And one right is for his family to see the person who did this behind bars and paying for the pain they caused. If anything the Law should be that if you cause an accident or any form of damage from distracted driving involving a cell phone. The detective and officers on the case can obtain a search warrant for the phone without providing substantial evidence to obtain the warrant.
Justin case March 18, 2014 at 01:39 PM
EVERY Howard County Police officer i pass is either on a cell, laptop or fidgeting with the tag readers. I even seen an elderly lady in McDonalds drive thru get pulled over as soon as she pulled away from the window. The officer behind her ran her plates(probably for s#@ts & giggles) then proceeded to stop her without even ordering his food. Of course her food was cold & ruined afterwards. He wrote a ticket then circled around & ordered his food (hot & fresh). He couldn't even get his lunch without looking to bust Granny. What happened to the "Andy & Barney" cops who used to actually PROTECT us?


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