Cell phones, seat belt laws change Oct. 1

It becomes a primary offense for drivers to use a cell phone while at the wheel and fines for seat belt violations are going up, effective Oct. 1.

Currently, police can issue citations for cell phone use if the driver commits another driving infraction like speeding or reckless driving, for example. The new law also expands the prohibition of handheld devices while in the "travel portion of the roadway," according to a release from Maryland State Police.

First-time violators are subject to a $75 fine, an increase from $40. Second violations will cost drivers $125 and $175 for subsequent violations.

Drivers will also be subject to fines for transporting passengers who are unrestrained by seat belts. The motto used by state police is "one person, one safety belt."

Drivers will be subject to a $50 fine per unbelted passenger, the release states.

"Additionally, the mandatory use of child safety seats applies to the transportation of all children younger than age eight, unless the child is 4 feet 9 inches or taller," according to the release. :These new laws were enacted to help reduce the number of accidents occurring due to distracted driving and to reduce injuries resulting from unrestrained occupants."

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