Heads up phones down Statewide handheld ban takes effect Oct. 1

On Monday, Oct. 1 Vermont will become the 15th state to ban the use of any handheld portable electronic device while driving. The new law carries fines of up to $200 with points assessed if the violation occurs in a work zone. It is already illegal to use a handheld electronic device while traveling in a work zone and texting is prohibited statewide. Use of a mobile device will be permitted if an approved hands-free technology such as Bluetooth is properly installed, but the ban on junior operators using cell phones remains in place. The Province of Quebec and New York State have each had a handheld ban in effect for several years. New Hampshire’s ban will take effect in July of 2015.
“We understand this is a major adjustment for Vermonters and visitors alike,” said Vermont Secretary of Transportation, Brian Searles. “But driving is serious business. Distracted driving has reached epidemic proportions nationally and here in New England where we have additional challenges related to winter driving. Anything we can do to reduce the number of distractions in vehicles is a step in the right direction.”
Hands-free use is permitted under the law. Hands-free means the portable electronic device is not in the hands of the driver. Devices can be used by employing an internal feature such as Bluetooth or a wired headset with a single-button control, or a speakerphone. The device itself can be used for single button hands-free operation, as long as the device is in a cradle or otherwise securely mounted in the vehicle. The ban is lifted when the driver needs to communicate with law enforcement or emergency service personnel in an emergency.
To learn more about how to comply with the new law including answers to frequently asked questions, go to highwaysafety.vermont.gov/phonesdown #phonesdownvt.