AUGUSTA (AP) – Gov. John Baldacci has signed a bill that will make failure by motorists to use seat belts a primary offense, but violators will only get warnings for the first few months the law’s in effect.

Under current law, police have to stop motorists for another violation before they can cite them for not buckling up.

The new law makes failure to buckle up reason enough for police action. The law will prohibit searches of vehicles and occupants solely because of a seat-belt infraction.

Although the new law will take effect 90 days after the close of this spring’s legislative session, an amendment stipulates that no tickets will be written for violations until April 1, 2008. Police will issue only warnings between the time the law kicks in, probably September, and April.

The three-tiered fine structure is unchanged by the new law. Fines are $50 for the first violation, $125 for the second and $250 for the third and subsequent violations.

Baldacci first proposed making nonuse a primary violation two years ago as part of his budget. But the proposal was defeated in 2005.

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