2014’s new distracted driving laws

state trooper enforces distracted driving lawNew distracted driving laws greet the New Year in a handful of states, notably Illinois, Oregon, Vermont and California.

In Illinois, holding a cell phone while driving becomes illegal Jan. 1. The state already prohibits text messaging while driving. Fines range from $75 (first offense) to $150.

In Oregon, fines for texting and using handheld mobile phones while driving increase to as much as $500. Most violators will pay $250 plus fees for texting and cell phone convictions — less than the new maximum. The old maximum fine, $250, will be doubled as of Jan. 1.

In Vermont, penalties also are increasing, with the maximum fine for texting doubling, to $200 for a first violation, and $500 for subsequent offenses in a two-year period. Points for texting increase from 2 to 5 for a first offense. Vermont also outlawed use of all portable electronic devices in posted work zones, with identical fines as for texting.

In California, teen drivers no longer are able to text message, via any means. A loophole in a 2012 state law appeared to give novice drivers permission to use voice-controlled texting systems, such as those in in-dash systems. In California, drivers under 18 aren’t allowed to use communications devices such as smartphones, whether hand-held or hands-free. (Adults are permitted to use hands-free devices.)

New Hampshire is among the handful of states that adopted new regulations against electronic distracted driving by commercial drivers. The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, adds texting & driving to infractions that can lead to commercial license suspensions. The commercial laws are inspired by federal safety fund requirements.

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