No Handheld Cell Phone Use While Driving in Md. Beginning Oct. 1

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A new law will make talking on a hand-held cell phone illegal in Maryland, while another requires that passengers in the back seat wear seat belts. News4's Adam Tuss reports.

    Maryland has joined D.C. in making the use of handheld cell phones while driving a primary offense.

    Law enforcement officers can stop any driver they see using a handheld wireless device while operating a vehicle. The law went into effect October 1.

    Maryland's New Handheld Phone Laws

    [DC] Maryland's New Handheld Phone Laws
    Starting Oct. 1, if you're caught using a handheld device while driving you'll get a pricey ticket.

    Getting caught will also cost you a little more. A first-time offender will be fined $83. A second offense will cost $140 and increase to $160 for a subsequent offense.

    But there is one exception. Drivers can use their phones to call or text 911 in the event of an emergency.

    The law continues to ban the use of cell phones while driving for school bus drivers, those under 18 and adults who hold learner's permits.

    "We are pleased that the Maryland General Assembly recognized the importance of strengthening the hand-held cell phone ban, as it will now serve as a real deterrent to motorists and enable police to better enforce the existing law," Ragina C. Averella, Manager of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic, said in a press release.

    According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, 58 percent of vehicle crashes in 2012 involved a distracted driver, and nearly half of the estimated 511 total fatalities were due to a distracted driver.

    The use of handheld cell phones has been banned in the District since 2004, but drivers in Virginia can still pick up that ringing phone.

    Texting while driving is banned in Maryland, Virginia and D.C.

    In addition to the new cell phone law, everyone inside the vehicle will be required to wear a seat belt, no matter their age or location in the car.

    Another new law will require drivers to change lanes for emergency vehicles on the side of the road. But the lane change should only be made if it can be done safely.

    Violators of this primary offense will be fined $110 and given one point. An offense that causes an accident will lead to a $150 fine and three points while a crash that results in death will net the offender a $175 fine and three points on their license.

    NEW GUN LAWS

    Starting Tuesday, anyone purchasing a handgun in Maryland will have to submit fingerprints to obtain a license.

    The bill requires people who buy a handgun to submit fingerprints to Maryland State Police. It also bans 45 types of assault weapons, but those who owned the weapons before the law goes into effect will be allowed to keep them.

    Opponents tried to stop the law from taking effect, but a federal judge refused to block it.

    O'Malley proposed the legislation following the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn, where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults.

    CYBERBULLYING

    A new law prohibits people from using an interactive computer server to inflict serious emotional distress on a minor.

    DEATH PENALTY REPEAL

    Maryland is banning capital punishment.

    NEWBORNS EXPOSED TO DRUGS

    Health care practitioners who deliver babies will be required to report to a local agency if newborns have been exposed to illegal drugs.

    DISABILITIES DUE TO PREGNANCY

    Maryland law will require employers with 15 or more employees to make reasonable accommodations for disabilities due to pregnancy.

    DEFIBRILLATORS AT SWIMMING POOLS

    Counties or municipalities that own or operate a swimming pool will need to a program to implement an external defibrillator program.

    SHARK FINS

    Shark fin sales will be banned in Maryland.