Hands-free law goes into effect on January 1

Posted at 3:09 PM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 10:14:34-05

IDAHO — Starting this Friday, drivers reported in violation of Idaho's hands-free device code will risk getting a citation.

The law has been in effect since July 1, but Idaho State Police troopers have been educating drivers about the dangers of distracted driving. Since July, there have been more than 700 warnings issued, according to a news release.

"There is nothing on your screen that is worth your life or the life of another," said ISP Lt. Chris Weadick. "ISP and our local law enforcement agencies are committed to keeping Idaho roads safe. The goal is to change driving behavior and save lives, and we urge all drivers to pay attention when they are behind the wheel."

Troopers say they have seen more drivers using Bluetooth and other hands-free device options, but more education is needed.

"If you're texting or using a device, you're not driving," said ISP Sgt. Curt Sproat. "For a lot of people, devices have become a habit, but it's a very dangerous habit when we're driving. That's why the law is in place and if a citation is the incentive some drivers need to put the device down and focus on the road, officers now have that option."

According to the Idaho Transportation Office of Highway Safety, 241 people were killed in Idaho in crashes attributed to distracted driving between 2014 and 2018.

The hands-free device law requires electronic devices to be in hands-free mode while driving, including when stopped at a red light or stop sign. Drivers are only allowed to touch devices to activate the hands-free mode and are not allowed to hold or support any electronic device, according to the law.

Activation of GPS, voice to text and making or receiving calls is allowed with one-touch or voice command. Handheld use is allowed only if the vehicle is stopped and not in a public travel lane or an emergency.

The law states if a driver receives two distracted driving violations in three years, insurance companies can consider those violations when establishing rates.

If you are expected a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your car in a safe location. Drivers can also designate a passenger as their "texter" and allow them to access the phone and respond to calls and text messages.

Drivers can also activate the "Do Not Disturb" feature or put their phones in the trunk, glove box or back seat until arriving at their desitination.

Penalty for Violating the Hands-Free Law:

  • 1st offense - $75 fine, with court costs = $131.50.
  • 2nd offense within three years - $150 fine, with court costs = $206.50.
  • 3rd and subsequent offenses within three years - $300 fine, with court costs = $356.50.

Three offenses in three years can also lead to a license suspension of up to 90 days, according to the news release.