WASHINGTON — Hold the phone. Chatty drivers in Maryland are piling up citations under a strict new cellphone law.
On Oct. 1, a Maryland law made driving while on a handheld phone a primary offense. Prior to the crackdown, an officer had to observe another violation to pull over a driver.
Now, if an officer sees a motorist on the phone while driving, the driver can be pulled over and fined — no other offense necessary.
In the first two weeks, 1,461 drivers were cited for using a handheld phone, according to Maryland District Court traffic records obtained by WTOP.
Fines start at $75 for the first offense. For the second offense, $125. And for the third and subsequent, $175.
The first day the law went into effect, Maryland State Police pulled over more than 200 drivers. More than half of those resulted in a ticket.
Other driving laws that went into effect Oct. 1 in Maryland include a seat belt law that makes it a primary offense for both drivers and front seat passengers to ride unbuckled.
Additionally, drivers who go through a toll booth at a bridge or the Intercounty Connector could face problems with their car registration if they fail to pay. Initially, a toll evader gets notified by mail and has $30 to pay. If they pay, the case is closed. If they miss the 30-day deadline, they face a $50 fine on top of the toll payment. If drivers ignore the fine, their registration will be flagged for non-renewal or suspended.
For information on other new Maryland laws, see the related stories below.