MARYLAND

"Jake's Law" would make some texting crashes a misdemeanor

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP/WJLA) - A measure in Maryland would make it a misdemeanor to cause accidents resulting in serious injury, if the driver at fault was talking or texting on a cellphone.

The pain Susan Yum feels from losing her son Jake can’t be erased. But she says she can keep it from happening to others.

"You know, it took MADD about 30 years to get the drunken driving laws passed in every state, and we hope that it doesn't take 30 years to pass this because thousands of lives could be unnecessarily lost," she says.

Like her son, five-year-old Jake Owen. In 2011, a driver who was texting and talking slammed into the back of their stopped minivan while going 60 miles per hour. Jake was killed.

Current Maryland laws have little power in these kinds of cases, and proving gross negligence can be difficult.

"It's disturbing," says prosecutor John Cox. "Here in Jake's case you're taking the life of an amiable and good little boy. To be able to walk out of a courtroom with a thousand dollar fine it's just very disturbing," says prosecutor John Cox.

“Jake’s Law” would make crimes like these involving cases of handheld phone use causing serious injury or death, punishable by up to three years in prison, $5,000 in fines, and 12 points on a driver’s license.

Several Annapolis lawmakers are already on board, and the proposed law is now being debated in a committee

Under current law, supporters of the bill say crashes caused by cellphone distracted driving typically result only in a traffic violation. The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

The measure in the House of Delegates is sponsored by Del. Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore. A Senate bill is being sponsored by Sen. Roger Manno, D-Montgomery.

"We're finding cases across the state, where people do not get the appropriate criminal punishment for checking their Facebook status while they kill someone," said Del. Clippinger.

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