A Maryland House of Delegates committee gave its approval late Wednesday night to “Jake’s Law,” a proposed legislation that would increase the penalties faced by drivers found guilty of causing a serious or fatal crash while using a cellphone.
That’s the first major hurdle for the proposed legislation, named for Jake Owen, a 5-year-old who was killed in a December 2011 crash in Baltimore that was caused by a 23-year-old driver who was talking on his cellphone. The case went to trial, and the driver paid $1,000 in fines.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 18 to 3 on Wednesday to give the bill a favorable report, as long as a few amendments are made. One of the amendments will reduce the maximum amount of jail time a driver could face from three years to one year. Drivers would still face a maximum fine of $5,000.
The amended bill now heads to the House floor for a full vote in the coming days. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee has yet to take action on similar proposed legislation.
“We think it’s a great start, but I think we still have a lot of work to do,” said Jake’s mother, Susan Yum, who has been in Annapolis every day this week to meet with lawmakers and deliver a personal note to each committee member. “We’re cautiously hopeful that we’ll get this through.”