New Hands-Free law goes into effect February 23
In an effort to reduce distracted driving to prevent accidents, injuries and deaths, the new law, An Act Requiring the Hands-Free Use of Mobile Telephones While Driving bans the hand-held use of cellphones and other electronic devices while driving. The law becomes effective February 23, 2020; therefore, now is the time to prepare and change habits.
What drivers can and cannot do
Under the new law:
- Drivers cannot use a mobile electronic device unless the device is being used in hands-free mode. The law defines “hands-free mode” as using the device without the user holding or touching the device except that a device may require a single tap or swipe to activate, deactivate or initiate the hands-free mode feature, i.e. devices using Bluetooth technology are allowed provided the use guidelines are met.
- Drivers cannot look at texts, images or videos displayed on a mobile electronic device, with the exception that a driver may view a map generated by a navigation system or application on a mobile electronic device that is mounted on or affixed to a vehicle’s windshield, dashboard or center console in a manner that does not impede the operation of the motor vehicle.
- Drivers stopped at a light or in traffic on a public way cannot use a hand-held device. Drivers may use a hand-held device if the vehicle is stationary and not located in a part of the public way, i.e. pulled over to the side of the road or in a parking lot.
- Drivers may use a hand-held device as an exception in response to emergencies including:
- the vehicle was disabled;
- medical attention or assistance was required;
- police intervention, fire department or other emergency services were necessary for the personal safety of the operator or a passenger or to otherwise ensure the safety of the public; or
- a disabled vehicle or an accident was present on a roadway.
NOTE: The law does not apply to first responders who are on duty and driving emergency service vehicles.
You can be pulled over just for being on your phone
Unlike the previous no texting while driving law, the new law makes holding a cellphone or electronic device a primary offense, which means you can be pulled over just for being on your phone.
Fines and required education for offenses
Offenders of the law are subject to fines as follows:
- First offense - $100 fine;
- Second offense - $250 fine, and;
- Third or subsequent offenses - $500 fine.
After a second or subsequent offense, operators will be required to complete an educational program on distracted driving prevention.
Your insurance will be impacted for repeat offenses
While a first or second offense is not categorized as a “surchargeable incident” under the statute, a third or subsequent offense will be considered surchargeable and will impact your insurance premiums.
Distracted driving due to the use of electronic devices is a serious problem. While this law addresses distractions due to mobile devices, distractions also exist in the form of driving while drowsy, level of activity inside the car, eating while driving, multi-tasking and other situations. For your safety, we encourage compliance with the new law as well as to reduce and eliminate other distractions so that you can focus on the road and the task of operating your motor vehicle.
Being alert and avoiding distractions is the best way to avoid accidents…it saves money, it saves headaches, it saves lives.
Read an official copy of H.4203, which is the version of the Hands-Free Use Act that was signed into law.