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Clearing up cell phone law
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Despite the widespread coverage over the past months, many motorists are still unclear about the new cell phone use laws that pertain to motor vehicle operation. The following general information should be helpful.

1. The new law prohibits cell phone use in motor vehicles unless the operator uses a "hands-free" device. An emergency situation creates the exception to this new law.

2. Persons under 18 years of age may not use cell phone while driving with or without hands-free, except in cases of emergency.

3. The law took effect July 1, 2008. There is no grace period, meaning that officers are likely to issue a citation upon observing a violation of this law.

4. Police officers and other emergency workers are exempt from this new law as long as they are engaged in their job duties.

5. Motorists may be pulled over solely for violating the cell phone law.

6. The first offense will result in a "base" fine of $20. Subsequent offenses will lead to $50 fines. Keep in mind that these fines do not reflect court fees and other administrative costs. These violations will show up on a motorist's driving records, but they do not count as "points" against the record as moving violations and collisions do.

7. Commercial vehicle operators may use the push-to-talk feature of cell phones (if so equipped), an exception that takes into account that the phone is not held close to one's head when operating as a two-way radio.

8. Underage persons are also prohibited from using mobile service devices such as pagers, texting devices, laptops, etc. Adults are urged to refrain from using the aforementioned devices while driving.

Cell phone usage has been implicated as a frequent contributor to the causes of traffic collisions, and therefore, the state legislature has enacted these new laws in effort to reduce the problem. More restrictive laws may be passed in the future if the problems persist. As I have stated in earlier writings on this subject, it seems to me that it is up to each of us as individuals to use common sense and safe practices so that the government does not have to step in and do it for us. I wish you safe motoring in 2008!