Pennsylvania lawmakers should follow their Maryland counterparts' road map.

After a decade of unsuccessful attempts to ban cellphone use by drivers, our southern neighbor's General Assembly finally made inroads in 2009 when it banned texting while driving.

The next year, lawmakers went further, making it illegal for drivers to use hand-held cellphones, although only as a secondary offense. That meant police could cite them for the infraction only if they were first stopped for a primary offense.

The Maryland General Assembly this week approved legislation making it a primary offense for drivers to talk on a hand-held cellphone while their vehicles are in motion. After it takes effect Oct. 1, if an officer sees a driver chatting on his or her phone, that person will be pulled over.

It took four years, but Maryland lawmakers finally made a significant dent in a practice the National Safety Council blames for 28 percent of all crashes, or 1.6 million per year.

They kept trying and made incremental changes that allowed motorists to get used to one before the next was implemented.

It probably didn't hurt that all the while Marylanders, like the rest of the country, were exposed to more and more research highlighting the dangers of mobile device use behind the wheel.

The same slow and steady process could work here in Pennsylvania, as well.

After years of trying to ban drivers from talking on cellphones, the Legislature last year finally managed at least to outlaw texting and driving -- a ridiculously dangerous practice that takes a motorist's eyes and attention off the road and a hand off the wheel.


And look -- we've all survived without it.

Perhaps that news will help lawmakers work up the courage to take the next step this year. Already, several bills have been introduced this session dealing with hand-held devices, some more restrictive than others.

Yet if history is any indicator, they'll face stiff opposition from those who value convenience more than safety.

As we've seen from Maryland's approach, though, it doesn't have to be all or nothing.

A compromise that makes hand-held cellphone use behind the wheel a secondary offense is better than no restriction at all.

And it will make the next bridge that much easier to cross somewhere down the road.