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Hands-free cell phone law goes into effect statewide starting Wednesday

Idaho

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The following is a news release from the Idaho Transportation Department.

IDAHO FALLS — Beginning Wednesday, drivers in Idaho will only be able to use electronic devices in hands-free mode behind the wheel, including when stopped at a red light or stop sign. In other words, the new hands-free law makes holding a cell phone illegal while operating a vehicle.

“Education of motorists is going to be key,” said Col. Kedrick Wills, Director of the Idaho State Police. “Idahoans want to be responsible and to be good drivers. This law is another way to remind all of us we need to pay attention to the road when we’re behind the wheel. As law enforcement, we can remind them with education or enforcement, we’re starting with what we prefer, which is education.”

Troopers and officers will issue warnings from July 1 to December 31. Tickets can be issued beginning Jan. 1, 2021.

What are the new hands-free driving rules?

  • Drivers can only use electronic devices and mobile phones in hands-free mode, and are only permitted to touch devices to activate the hands-free mode.
  • Drivers are not permitted to hold or support any electronic device/phone
  • Activation of GPS, voice to text, and making or receiving calls is permitted with one-touch or voice command
  • Handheld use is allowed only if the vehicle is both stationary and not located in a public travel lane
  • Drivers are not allowed to touch a device for texting, emailing, apps, video, or internet use

Penalty for violating the hands-free law:

  • 1st offense – $75 fine
  • 2nd offense within three years – $150 fine
  • 3rd and subsequent offenses within three years – $300 fine. Three offenses in three years can also lead to a license suspension of up to 90 days.
  • Distracted driving has always been a danger, but over the past decade, driving while distracted has morphed from random incidents to a persistent and dangerous problem.

    Between 2014 and 2018, there were 241 people killed in distracted driving crashes across the state and it is a contributing factor in about one out of every five crashes in Idaho

    “Sadly, our troopers have come across crashes where the driver’s decision to use a mobile device while driving resulted in life or death consequences,” said Col. Willis. “Anyone who has seen, been involved in, or is tasked with responding to these crashes understands this law addresses safety for every single one of us who drives on our roadways.”

    In 2012, the legislature passed a law that prohibited texting. This statute will be repealed once House Bill 614 takes effect July 1. The new law will preempt all local ordinances in relation to hands-free driving superseding cities that already have hands-free ordinances.

    “With the sunset of our original hands-free city ordinance, Meridian officers will enforce this new state law,” said Meridian Police Department’s Traffic Sergeant Brandon Frasier. “This law supports traffic safety enforcement efforts across the state, which helps to make Idaho distraction-free while driving.”

    “We’re in this together, every motorist on the road,” said Col. Willis. “Our lawmakers have seen the wisdom of giving law enforcement in every jurisdiction, cities, counties and the state, a greater tool to ensure traffic safety. But the greatest power lies with each individual motorist who gets behind the wheel and makes the conscious decision to be engaged while driving.

    “ISP will do our part to enforce when necessary, but we’re asking every Idaho driver to take it upon yourself and take responsibility for your own safety and that of others around you. Keep your hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road, and your mind on driving, and we’ll all get where we’re going safety,” he added.

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