Hands-free only: Idaho’s new law on cellphone use while driving takes effect July 1

IDAHO FALLS (Idaho Statesman) — Idahoans must learn to put their cellphones down while driving because as of Wednesday, it will be illegal to operate a motor vehicle with an electronic device in hand.

The new law requires that all electronic devices be in hands-free mode while driving, including when stopped at a red light or stop sign.

The law passed in the Idaho Legislature this year after it was pitched by Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, and new laws take effect on July 1 each year. The bill also prevents any city or county from passing their own local laws addressing the issue.

The Idaho State Police said Monday that law enforcement will issue warnings until Dec. 31 and try to educate drivers about the new law. Citations will be issued as of Jan. 1, 2021.

Every 1 in 5 crashes in Idaho involves distracted driving as a contributing factor, according to ISP.

In 2012, the Idaho Legislature voted to ban drivers from texting while driving, but until now, the law didn’t bar drivers from using their cellphones entirely.

Under the new law, drivers may not hold an electronic device. Activation of GPS, voice-to-text, and making or receiving calls is permitted only with voice command in hands-free mode.

If a driver receives two distracted driving violations in three years, the new law states that insurance companies can consider those violations when establishing rates for a motorist.

A first offense is punishable by a $75 fine, a second offense within three years is punishable by a $150 fine and a third offense can draw a $300 fine. Three citations for distracted driving within three years also can lead to a driver’s license suspension of up to 90 days.

According to ISP, between 2014 and 2018, 241 people were killed in Idaho in crashes that were attributed to distracted driving.

“Education of motorists is key,” said ISP Director Col. Kedrick Wills in a press release. “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.”