Hands-free law takes effect Wednesday

| June 30, 2020 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Motorists in Idaho will be required to be hands-free when using their mobile phones while behind the wheel.

The new requirement takes effect on Wednesday.

The new law 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 cell phone illegal while operating a vehicle,” Idaho State Police said in a statement.

The new law 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. 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. Troopers, officers and deputies will issue warnings from July 1 to Dec. 31. Citations can be issued beginning Jan. 1, 2021.

Under the law, drivers can only use electronic devices and mobile phones in hands-free mode. Drivers are not allowed to hold devices and activation of GPS, voice-to-text and making or receiving calls is permitted with voice or one-touch commands.

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.

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.

“We’re in this together, every motorist on the road. Our lawmakers have seen the need to give 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 who makes the conscious decision to be engaged while driving,” Wills said.