A new law affecting Idaho driver’s went into full effect Jan. 1, 2021.

Drivers using their cellphones will be in violation of the state’s hands-free device code.

The code is meant to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities caused by inattentive driving.

According to the Idaho Transportation Office of Highway Safety, 1 in 5 motor vehicle accidents are attributed to distracted driving. Data from ITD also shows that 241 deaths in Idaho were attributed to distracted driving between 2014 and 2018.

The hands-free device law went into effect July 1, 2020, however it allowed for a six-month grace period in which drivers received warnings for the violation. Idaho State Police have issued 700 warnings since then.

“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.”

The law requires electronic devices to be in hands-free mode while driving even when stopped at a red light or stop sign. The law also bans texting, emailing, apps, video, or internet use.

“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.”

To use GPS, voice-to-text, or call functions a one-touch or voice command system must be in place.

Additionally, drivers are only permitted to touch devices to activate hands-free mode, cannot hold or support their electronic device.

Handheld use is allowed during an emergency or if the vehicle is stationary and not in a public travel lane.

The law allows for repeat offenders to be penalized by their insurance companies. Drivers who commit two violations in three years may see their insurance rate increase.

Alternatives to phone use suggested by the ISP include isolating the phone from immediate reach, designating a passenger to text, or to find a safe location to pull off the road to use the phone.

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