Happy 2008.  If you are traveling today (as are many other people), keep in mind to carry your loose lithium batteries with you instead of tucked away in your checked luggage.

The new US Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) regulations took effect yesterday (January 1, 2008) restrict how airline passengers transport lithium batteries, which are in everything from digital cameras to laptop computers and many portable consumer electronics.

From now on, you'll have to carry them in your carry-on luggage rather than in your checked baggage.  Keep stocked up on Ziplock bags, as any loose batteries in your carry-on bags should be stored in plastic bags.  This should, the D.O.T. reasons, should reduce the risk of fires resulting from lithium batteries.

As noted in several stories, the new rules also limit the number of batteries you can carry on the airplane: the rule limits you to just two additional rechargeable lithium batteries not installed in a device.  So, if you travel cross-country and need more than two, consider a larger, extended life battery.

Of course, if you have luck as I had over the holidays, this is a better idea, given that our airline lost one piece of our luggage on a non-stop flight. 

There is an exception, of course: batteries are allowed in checked baggage when installed in a device.

Details: As I learned from the article by Andrew Hickey at CMP Channel, the D.O.T. states that...

"spare batteries can only be carried on if they contain up to 8 grams of lithium content... Lithium metal batteries have a limit of 2 grams of lithium metal, regardless of whether they're carried as spares or installed in a device."

That limit seems to be the case in most portable electronic batteries.

The new rules for batteries are also described here on the SafeTravel.dot.gov Web site.