Three More States Say Yes to Hands-Free Laws for Drivers

By: - June 29, 2020 12:00 am

Greg LaVallee, right, testifies at a legislative hearing in Minnesota last year, holding a photo of his son, who was killed by a driver who was using a cellphone. Minnesota passed a hands-free law, which went into effect last August, and three more states will be enacting similar laws this week. Jim Mone/The Associated Press

Starting July 1, three more states will be banning drivers from using cellphones behind the wheel, unless they’re hands-free.

Idaho, Indiana and South Dakota will join 22 states and the District of Columbia, which already have hands-free laws for all drivers.

Virginia also has passed a similar law, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.

More states may be joining them. Hands-free bills are pending in state legislatures in Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit research group funded by auto insurance companies.

Talking or texting on a cellphone is a form of distracted driving and it’s dangerous, highway safety officials warn. Distracted driving, which also includes eating and drinking or fiddling with the entertainment or navigation system, takes the driver’s attention away from the task of safe driving.

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia already have texting bans for all drivers. Only Montana and Missouri don’t.

While there are no reliable estimates on the number of crashes caused by distracted drivers, 2,841 people lost their lives because of distracted driving in 2018, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Among them were 1,730 drivers, 605 passengers, 400 pedestrians and 77 bicyclists.

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Jenni Bergal

Jenni Bergal covers transportation, infrastructure and cybersecurity for Stateline. She has been a reporter at Kaiser and the Center for Public Integrity.