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Will NTSB’s proposed ban make Maryland driving laws stricter?

Compared to other states in the U.S., Maryland has relatively strict traffic laws related to distracted driving. But if the National Transportation Safety Board has its way, the traffic laws here would become even stricter. Even using a hands-free cell phone device would be a traffic violation.

Last week, the NTSB called for all states to completely ban talking and texting while driving. The board doesn’t have complete authority to require all states to adopt stricter distracted driving laws, but it has influence over state lawmakers due to federal funds allotted every year.

States adopt the traffic laws that they see as the best for them. Distracted driving laws, therefore, vary from state to state. Currently, Maryland bans hand-held cell phone use and text messaging among all drivers. Beginning drivers and those under 18 are banned from using cell phones at all behind the wheel.

So while the laws here are already relatively strict, if Maryland lawmakers accept the NTSB’s suggestion, they’d get harsher by eliminating the use of hands-free devices in the car. The reason behind banning even a hands-free device in the car is that carrying on a conversation takes drivers’ attention away from the road and is more likely to lead to traffic accidents.

Critics of harsh distracted driving laws argue that lawmakers and safety officials are pushing too hard and taking away individual freedoms. Soon, will they want to ban radios from the car? Will talking to a passenger in the car be considered a traffic violation?

What do you think about this matter? Would you support Maryland’s adoption of the NTSB’s suggestions?


PC World: “Cell Phone Driving Bans, State by State: Where You Break the Law,” Angela West, Dec. 19, 2011

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