Luckily, the Town of Simsbury police officer who knocked on my window while I continued to yak on my cell phone after finding a parking space at Staples was very kind. I only received a warning ticket and a reminder that I need to purchase a hands-free device in order to use my cell phone while driving.
I was relieved, as the fine for violation of Connecticut's strict cell phone law is up to $100 for first-time offenders, but I was also plenty embarrassed. I was well aware of the new law and had even tried out my husband's work-supplied Jabra hands-free headset (Compare Prices) over the weekend. Picking up my cell phone to make a quick call while driving has become almost a reflex, though.
To help you avoid finding yourself in a similar predicament, here's a quick review of the cell phone law in Connecticut:
- Drivers 18 years of age and older need to use a hands-free accessory in order to legally use a cellular telephone or other mobile electronic device while operating a motor vehicle.
- Drivers who are 16 or 17 years of age may not use any type of cell phone or mobile electronic device, even with a hands-free accessory. As of August 1, 2008, drivers ages 16 or 17 can have their licenses suspended for using a cell phone or electronic device while driving.
- Operators of school buses carrying passengers may not use a cell phone or any other electronic device when the bus is moving.
- The one exception to this law is that a cell phone or mobile electronic device may be used by a driver of any age in an emergency situation, so go ahead and use your phone while driving for emergency calls to 911, a hospital, a doctor's office, a health clinic, an ambulance company, or a fire or police department.
For purposes of the law, a mobile electronic device is defined as any hand-held or other portable electronic equipment capable of providing data communication between two or more people, including devices for text messaging or paging, personal digital assistants, laptop computers, video games, DVD players or equipment on which digital photographs can be taken or transmitted.
Cell phones and mobile electronic devices may be used by passengers in a moving vehicle.
In a media release, Chief State's Attorney Christopher L. Morano said, "The purpose of this law is to promote safety on our highways." He also said that state officials recognize that it may take some time to educate the public about the new cell phone laws.
At least initially, first-time offenders who receive tickets for using a cell phone while driving will be given the opportunity to avoid a fine by submitting proof of purchase of a hands-free device along with their "not guilty" plea.
You can avoid a lot of hassle, though, by getting your hands-free cell phone device now before you find yourself in trouble with the law like me! About.com's former Cell Phones Guide Eric Bernatchez offers some hands-free accessory shopping advice, along with reviews of hands-free kits and accessories.