Today is the day Rhode Island drivers will have to put down their cell phones while driving, or risk getting a hundred dollar ticket. Rhode Island’s hand-free cell phone law is officially now in effect.
It is now illegal in Rhode Island for drivers to hold a cell phone or other wireless device while operating a vehicle. Texting while driving was already prohibited in the state. The use of headphones or other accessories that cover both ears also is not allowed.
State police said drivers will be allowed to use the phone only with a hands-free devices, like a mount inside the car or Bluetooth.
Sgt. Greg Cunningham, of the Rhode Island State Police, said the time it takes to type a text message means taking your eyes off the road.
"And essentially you’re going to travel the length of a football field, and you’re going to crash. If you’re not paying attention, you’re going to crash. We want the roads to be safer. We want people to be safer. And I think this law will go a long way into helping that cause," he said.
Cunningham said first-time offenders face a hundred dollar fine, but there is a way to get the ticket dismissed.
"In the meantime, since getting your ticket and going to court, you are able to purchase some type of Bluetooth device or something that can help you use the phone hands free. Bring the receipt into court and the judge will waive the fee for you," said Cunningham.
He said the law makes driving while holding a cell phone a primary offense, meaning you can get pulled over just for scrolling through your phone.
However, the law does allow drivers to touch the phone to start or end a call.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation has a breakdown of the law on their website, along with examples of hands free device options.