New Driving Law Effective January 2

Gov. Jack Markell signs cell phone ban into law July 6, 2010

 Last summer Governor Markell signed into law a bill that prohibits the use of cell phones while driving. This new state law bans the use of “hand held cell phones, pagers, PDAs, Blackberrys, laptops, games or portable computers” while operating a motor vehicle.

The new law will go into effect on January 2, 2011. Not only will drivers not be able to talk on their phone without using a hands-free device but they will also not be allowed to “read, write or send text messages, email or use the internet while driving.”

Starting January 2, 2010 drivers who are caught breaking this law will be fined $50 for the first offense and receive subsequent penalties reaching $200.

Delaware will be the 30th state in the union to adopt the texting ban and the 8th state to ban the use of cell phones without the assistance of hands-free devices. Although Maryland and New Jersey have banned talking on hand held cell phones while driving, the surrounding states of Pennsylvania and Virginia have not banned the use of cell phones without hands –free devices.

The use of cell phones by novice drivers and school bus drivers is already against the law in the state of Delaware. State Representatives Scott and Miro have pointed to these existing prohibitions as an acknowledgement that the use of cell phones poses an unacceptable distraction. The City of Wilmington and the Town of Elsmere have already enacted ordinances outlawing motorists from using hand-held cell phones within their jurisdictions.

The Delaware law will not apply to law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, or paramedics engaged in the performance of their duties. The law also won’t impact motorists while they are placing a call or activating their “hands-free” equipment; people operating or driving farm tractors, farm trucks and farm equipment; and FCC-licensed amateur radio operators.

The Office of Highway Safety in Delaware acknowledges that this law is a direct result of the increasing number of crashes and fatalities caused by cell phone and electronic device distractions. According to the Delaware State Police, in 2009, 230 crashes involved the use of a cell phone as a distraction. The Office of Highway Safety and Bayhealth Medical Center are developing a public awareness campaign that will increase knowledge and understanding of the cell phone ban and the dangers or texting while driving.

The New Year will bring more responsibility while driving in Delaware.  Talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device, texting, emailing or using the internet while operating a motor vehicle will be illegal in the First State starting January 2, 2011.