Commitment to Public Safety
As a member of the Motor Vehicles and Transportation subcommittee, I am constantly looking for ways to improve public safety on Maryland’s roads. As a legislator for District 11, I also work with the State Highway Administration and the Maryland Transit Administration to ensure safe roads and transit service.
Prior to this bill, there were no laws in Maryland that penalized a reckless driver who had caused death or harm to another user of the road.
House Bill 118 establishes a fine of up to $2,000, community service, and motor vehicle safety education for anyone whose driving results in the injury or death of a “vulnerable individual”; such as a pedestrian, certain workers and emergency services personnel, an individual walking an animal, or an individual operating certain modes of transport. This bill also requires that the individual charged with a violation to appear in court and may NOT prepay the fine.
This bill strengthens our message about the importance of safety on the roads and, hopefully, better protects vulnerable individuals who use the roads.
A number of years ago, the General Assembly enacted legislation to authorize second-tier driver’s licenses to eliminate hit-and-run accidents by unlicensed drivers. These licenses comply with federal law, which specifically permits the issuance of a second type of license that is not usable for federal purposes like entering federal buildings or getting on airplanes. Most of those who apply for this license are undocumented immigrants. Afterwards, we realized that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had begun using the MVA database to find personal information and photos of people they believed were here illegally to arrest and deport them–even if they had not committed any crimes. Not only was ICE, and other federal agencies such as the FBI, able to obtain information on undocumented immigrants, it could access private personal information on anyone with a driver’s license in Maryland.
House Bill 23 now prevents any state or local agency from providing access to MVA’s database, or doing a facial recognition search of photos for civil immigration enforcement. Access for criminal immigration enforcement is allowed when a warrant issued by a federal or Maryland court is presented.
Maryland first began requiring that sprinklers be included in all new residential buildings in 2008. However, there was no enforcement mechanism. Since the State Fire Marshal has legal authority to enforce all laws concerning the installation and maintenance of equipment intended to control, detect, or extinguish fires, it made sense to give the Fire Marshal clear authority to enforce the state’s sprinkler requirement. By giving this authority to the State Fire Marshal, HB 823 ensures that new residential buildings, particularly those built in remote areas, have the ability to control a fire outbreak.
Railroad Company – Movement of Freight – Required Crew (HB 180)
This bill would require that each freight train operating in Maryland and sharing tracks with passenger and commuter rail trains have a minimum crew of two people. It is very similar to the bill this committee (and the House of Delegates) passed in 2017. Having a two-person crew is particularly important when there’s an emergency. In the event of an emergency, a lone crew member cannot properly assess the situation, secure the train, and notify all necessary emergency responders in a timely manner. The bill passed both the House and Senate, however it was vetoed by the Governor. I plan to reintroduce this bill in the 2019 session.
Subcutaneous Implanting of Identification Device-Prohibition (HB 1101)
This bill prohibits a person or an agent, a representative, or a designee of the State or a local government from requiring, coercing, or compelling an individual to undergo a certain implanting of a certain identification device. This legislation does not affect a person’s ability to voluntarily receive a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip-it only prevents this technology from being forced upon anyone. This ban is needed to protect the health and privacy of our citizens. This technology presents many risks that have not been fully researched. The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, which develops ethics policies for the American Medical Association, found that RFID devices can compromise a person’s privacy because there is no assurance that the information contained in the tags can be protected. The bill passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by the Governor.
Vehicle Laws – Manufacturers and Dealers – Consumer Data Protection (HB 1104)
This legislation requires that vehicle manufacturers, distributors, and factory branches, or their agents, to allow vehicle dealers to furnish consumer data in a certain manner; authorizing manufacturers, distributors, and factory branches to access data management systems with express written consent of the dealer; prohibiting manufacturers, distributors, and factory branches from requiring a dealer to grant access to the dealer’s data management systems through a franchise agreement.
Motor Vehicle – Use of Fog Lights when Windshield Wipers Operating – Repeal (HB 494)
After my 2016 bill failed, I decided to simplify the language to achieve the same goal. This bill repeals the use of fog lights, which will in effect require that drivers have their headlights on, which also turns on tail lights, whenever wipers are in use. This bill also makes the overhead highway signs that are now in use more accurate: “Wipers on, headlights on, it’s the law.”
Vehicle Laws – HOV Lanes – Tow Trucks (HB 889)
This bill will allow tow trucks, when responding to a call for service, to use an HOV lane. Tow trucks will be able to get to accidents or disabled motorists more quickly, reducing the time it takes for disabled cars to be moved off the highway.
Lamps and Lights When Windshield Wipers Operating (HB 294)
Requires that drivers have both their headlights and rear lights–not fog lights—whenever their windshield wipers are in operation due to bad weather conditions. The current law, which allows for operation of headlamps or fog lights, does not sufficiently ensure safety on the roads because turning on fog lights does not automatically turn on the tail lights of the vehicle, which makes it difficult for cars behind to see in poor weather conditions.
Passenger Seatbelts – Primary Offense (HB 373)
This is another bill designed to reduce unnecessary injuries and fatalities in car accidents. Current law makes it mandatory for the driver and front outboard passenger to wear seatbelts, but not a front middle-seat passenger. The current law also makes it a secondary offense not to wear a seatbelt in the back passenger seats. However, unrestrained passengers are much more likely to be injured or killed and to cause injuries to other passengers in the event of an accident. In order to prevent unnecessary and tragic deaths and injuries, HB 373 will require every passenger of a vehicle to wear a seat by making it a primary offense not to wear a seat belt.