Starting Oct. 1, police in Maryland will be able to pull drivers over for talking on a hand-held cell phone as a primary offense. Driving while talking on a hand-held cell phone was already against state law, but it was a secondary offense, meaning police could only ticket a driver for it if the driver was stopped for a primary offense, such as speeding.
Drivers caught driving while using a hand-held mobile phone can be fined $75 for a first-time offense, up from $40 under current law, but more for subsequent violations. The ticket carries no points unless the action contributed to an accident.
The new law will help reduce distracted driving, which accounted for nearly half of all road fatalities in Maryland last year.
“I am pleased that this issue is being taken seriously by the Maryland Legislature. Distracted driving, texting, or using a hand held devise, is dangerous," said David Tompkins, attorney at Lewis & Tompkins PC.
Another law taking effect today in Maryland will require all passengers to wear seat belts while traveling in the backseat of any vehicle. The new law is a secondary offense and carries a $50 fine. Children 16 and under were covered by existing state law (except children under 8 who are 4 feet 9 inches or taller), but the fine for violating that law will rise to match the fine for adults.
Drivers will also no longer be allowed to have more passengers than seat belts in a car.