By Linh Bui

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Drivers, listen up. New traffic laws take effect on Tuesday with the goal of making Maryland roads safer.

Linh Bui has details.

Put down those cell phones. Starting Oct. 1, it’s a primary offense for talking on your phone while driving instead of a secondary offense.

“Law enforcement now can stop a motorist who is visually being seen holding the phone and talking on it. A police officer will have to have no other reason to stop you,” said Ragina Averella, AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Drivers must use a hands-free device. That’s been the law since 2010.

“You have to be careful, it is dangerous. I’m afraid to text and drive. I don’t do it. I don’t answer the call,” said Inna Elbert, Baltimore City.

There’s also a new seat belt law.

Before, if you were in the backseat and over 16 years old, you did not have to wear a seat belt. But soon, everyone in the vehicle has to buckle up.

“I think it is common sense. You should wear a seat belt in the car. Do I always wear my seat belt? No. So if I got a ticket because I’m in the back seat because I don’t have my seat belt on, I might get a little frustrated,” said Nazim Curtis, Baltimore City.

Break the rules, and pay up. Caught talking on your phone while driving? It’s a $75 fine the first time. But that goes up with each offense. Violating the seat belt law costs you $50.

It’s a pricey lesson, but one that will save lives.

“Preliminary Maryland data from the Maryland Highway Safety Office suggests that of the 511 fatalities last year on Maryland roads, approximately 50 percent of those were the result of a distracted driver,” Averella said.

Texting while driving is already a primary offense in Maryland.

Linh Bui

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