Put down the cellphone. Maryland will join nine other states and the District in having drivers pulled over for talking on their phones starting October 1, 2013.
A series of new driving and vehicle laws will become effective Oct. 1. The change likely to have the broadest impact could be that police can now pull over drivers for talking on a cellphone.
Talking on the phone while driving has been against the law in Maryland for the past three years, but it was a secondary offense, meaning that police could not stop a car only because the driver was chatting. Next month, it will become a primary offense, so officers will not need any other reason to issue a ticket.
The new law also increases the maximum fine for breaking the law. Drivers who are 18 years of age or older could pay $75 for a first violation, $125 for a second violation, and $175 for a third or subsequent violation, according to the Motor Vehicle Administration.
However, a citation will not add points to the driver’s license, if the driver is 18 or older, unless using the phone contributed to an accident.
Maryland’s law allows drivers to talk on their phones if they use a hands-free device, like a Bluetooth headset.
Another bill will increase the fines for seat belt and child safety seat violations from $25 to $50. It also does away with an exemption that formerly allowed a driver to have more child passengers in a vehicle than the number of seat belts or safety seats in the car.
The new law requires passengers 16 and older to wear a seatbelt in any seat, but not wearing a seatbelt in the back seat will be a secondary violation.
Some changes should make it a little easier for drivers with disabilities to get the appropriate plates and parking permits.
Licensed physician assistants will be able to certify a qualifying disability to help drivers get special disability registration plates or placards, or a temporary parking placard.
Another new law permits an individual with a disability to obtain two special disability Class D motorcycle registrations in addition to any other special disability registration or placards they have.
Finally, the Investigative Division of the MVA will wield a little more power.
A new law expands its authority in regard to business licensing, violations relating to titling and registration, unlawful duplication or reproduction of driver’s licenses and identification cards and odometer tampering.