ANNAPOLIS, MD - Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley on May 20 signed a bill into law banning the use of a handheld cell phone while driving unless the driver employs a hands-free device, the Baltimore Sun newspaper reported. 

Maryland joins seven other states in banning handheld cell phone use by all drivers. The law becomes effective Oct. 1. 

The legislation drew the backing of vehicle safety advocates, including the Maryland Highway Safety Foundation. 

The law exempts devices that let drivers talk with their hands free. 

Those attending the bill-signing ceremony included Russell and Kim Hurd, a Harford County couple whose daughter, Heather, was killed in January 2008 in a crash attributed to a truck driver who was sending a text message. The Hurds had testified for both the texting ban passed last year and this year's cell phone legislation. 

The law imposes a $40 fine for a first offense and $100 fines for subsequent violations. But violations impose no points on a motorist's driving record for a first offense unless that violation contributes to an accident. Under the legislation, a violation is a secondary offense; a police officer can only pull over a violator who is observed committing another offense, such as speeding.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet