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Drivers, pay attention

| June 30, 2020 1:00 AM

New law requires electronic devices be in hands-free mode

COEUR d’ALENE — Idaho drivers will need to break their habit of driving and holding their cellphone, or it could get costly.

Beginning Wednesday, the new Idaho State Code 49-1401A requires electronic devices be in hands-free mode while driving, including when stopped at a red light or stop sign.

In other words, with few exceptions, the new hands-free law makes holding a cellphone illegal while operating a vehicle.

The new law, HB 614, is intended to “address safety concerns associated with a significant portion of distracted driving crashes.”

“Education of motorists is key,” said Col. Kedrick Wills, director of the Idaho State Police.

“Idahoans want to be responsible and to be good drivers,” he said. “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, education.”

This law applies in every city and county throughout the state. It will preempt all local ordinances in cities who already have hands-free ordinances. In 2012, the Legislature passed a law that prohibited texting. This statute will be repealed once House Bill 614 takes effect July 1.

Drivers will be given time to adjust to the new law.

Troopers, officers and deputies will issue warnings from July 1 to Dec. 31. Citations can be issued beginning Jan. 1.

The first offense will be a $75 fine. The second within three years, $150. The third and subsequent offenses within three years, $300.

Three offenses in three years can also lead to a license suspension of up to 90 days.

“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 the safety of others around you,” Wills said. “Keep your hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road, your mind on driving, and together we’ll keep Idaho safe.”

ISP pointed out, however, that distracted driving remains a danger and over the past decade has morphed from “random incidents to a persistent and dangerous problem.”

• 241 people were killed in Idaho in crashes attributed to distracted driving between 2014 and 2018.

• In 1 in 5 crashes in Idaho, distracted driving is a contributing factor.

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

What drivers need know:

• Drivers can only use electronic devices and mobile phones in hands-free mode;

• Drivers are only permitted to touch devices to activate 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, or in the event of an emergency;

• Drivers are not allowed to touch a device for texting, emailing, apps, video, or internet use;

• Should a driver receive two distracted driving violations in three years, the new law states insurance companies can consider those violations when establishing insurance rates for a driver.