New state laws take effect on Jan. 2, 2011
Starting next year the only way a driver can speak on his or her cell phone is with a hands-free device. Governor Jack Markell signed a series of bills that make Delaware the 8th to ban talking on a cell phone while driving unless you are using a hands-free device. It also makes Delaware the 30th state to ban texting while driving. The texting ban applies to cell phones, lap top computers, pda’s and pagers.
The signing ceremony took place at the mid-Atlantic headquarters for AAA in Wilmington. That organization had been instrumental in pushing for the ban. There were two other bills signed into law at the same time. As the bills were being debated one legislator noted the ban would have also banned taxi drivers and emergency personnel from using walkie-talkie communication devices.
The bill signing starts a six-month public awareness campaign to educate the public. Bayhealth Medical Center in Dover will partner with the state in building a series of public service announcements and billboards to highlight the dangers of talking, texting, and driving.
Governor Markell called the new laws, “a deterrent to anyone who talks on a cell phone.” He pointed out that he has a 17-year-old driver in his household and a 15-year-old who would be driving soon. He said that while his children have told him that they would never text and drive, the facts behind talking on a cell phone while driving show that it is being done more often with deadly results. The dangers of texting while driving among teens was brought out on a recent edition of First. Two students tried to maneuver a test course while texting. The end result proved it was a difficult task.
An early proponent of the texting ban was state representative Joseph Miro (R-Pike Creek Valley). He said it has been worth the wait. He added, “the technology has evolved where there is no longer an excuse that we can’t afford the hands-free technology.”
If motorists are pulled over for violating this law it cost you $50 for the first offense. The second time it will be $200. If you drive or text after the ban it will be considered a primary offense, but there will not be points on your license if you are caught.