On October 1, 2005, Connecticut's first cell phone law took effect. And yet, as you motor around the state, perhaps on a leisurely fall foliage driving tour, you'll still see plenty of drivers pressing cell phones to their ears or texting with one hand while they steer with the other.
With Bluetooth in cars, speaker phone capabilities on most cell phones and a variety of hands-free headsets on the market, there really is no excuse for breaking this driving law. Not when you risk not only being pulled over by local or state police but endangering your own life and the lives of others. The fine for violation of Connecticut's strict cell phone law is hefty even for first-time offenders.
Even if you're good about never holding a phone to your ear while driving, admit it: It's sometimes tough to resist looking down at your phone while you're on the road to check a text or peruse an email. This is bad because Connecticut has introduced additional distracted driving laws that severely restrict drivers' use of hand-held cell phones for texting, calling and more. During a texting and driving crackdown in 2015, some drivers were ticketed for infractions as seemingly harmless as changing the Pandora radio station on their phones.
To help you avoid finding yourself in a similar predicament, here's a quick review of key components of the cell phone law in Connecticut:
- No person shall operate a motor vehicle upon a highway (any state or other public highway, road, street, avenue, alley, driveway, parkway) while using a hand-held mobile telephone to engage in a call. Hold a cell phone anywhere near your ear, and the law assumes you are engaged in a call.
- An operator of a motor vehicle who types, sends or reads a text message with a hand-held mobile telephone or mobile electronic device while operating a motor vehicle is also in violation of the law.
- 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 in Connecticut, a mobile electronic device is defined as any hand-held or other portable electronic equipment capable of providing data communication between two or more persons, including a text messaging device, a paging device, a personal digital assistant, a laptop computer, equipment that is capable of playing a video game or a digital video disk, or equipment on which digital photographs are taken or transmitted, or any combination thereof, but does not include any audio equipment or any equipment installed in a motor vehicle for the purpose of providing navigation, emergency assistance to the operator of such motor vehicle or video entertainment to the passengers in the rear seats of such motor vehicle.
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 state officials recognize that educating the public about cell phone laws is a process that takes time.
You can avoid a lot of hassle and expensive penalties by getting a hands-free cell phone device now before you find yourself in trouble with the law. It's a small price to pay when you consider the penalties in Connecticut: $150 for a first offense, $300 for a second and $500 (ouch!) for all subsequent offenses. Each distracted driving infraction also adds one point to your license, which can send your auto insurance rates higher. If you cause a fatality while texting and driving, you face criminal charges, fines and a weight that your conscience will never shake.