Drivers with one hand on the wheel and the other holding a cell phone will now face stiff fines in Delaware.
As of January 2, the state now requires motorists to use a hands-free device when talking on a cell phone. New York, New Jersey, and D.C. all have similar laws on their books.
Those not using hands-free technology like an ear bud or a blue tooth device will face a $50 fine on the first offense. Repeat offenders can pay up to $200. However, the fines are not moving violations and will not incur points on drivers’ licenses.
The new law also bans the use of pagers, PDA’s, laptops, or any other electronic device while operating a vehicle. The Delaware State Police said 214 crashes in 2010 were the result of drivers distracted by cell phones.
Drivers are allowed to pick up their phones to dial or answer an incoming call, but then put the phone down during the conversation. Drivers are also allowed to use the phone while driving if they are reporting a fire, road hazard, traffic crash, or reckless driving. Government employees operating two-way radios are exempt.
National research shows that drivers using a cell phone are four times more likely than other drivers to get into a crash causing serious injury. Delaware’s prohibition was signed into law July 6, 2010, but did not take effect until 2011.