Hands-free cell law goes into effect New Years day

Drivers could be fined up to $200 for offense

SAN ANTONIO – A new law goes into effect Jan. 1 that will have a major impact on drivers.

The hands-free cellphone city ordinance is a pretty simple law that should be very effective.

"The definition of 'hands-free' means you're not holding the phone in your hand while you are operating a motor vehicle," said Marcus Trujillo with SAPD. "That means you can't hold it, you can't listen to it, you can't talk to anybody (on it), you can't dial the phone. It must be out of your hands while you're operating the vehicle."

The only way you can talk on your phone is by hitting one button to activate or deactivate it. That may be done by a Bluetooth-enabled device or by voice commands. 

You can't pick up the phone if you are in a traffic jam or stopped at a red light, you just can't hold the phone while on a public street. 

For some drivers, this will be an adjustment.

"It will be hard but it's the law, so I have to adjust," said Tracey Potter.

Other drivers have already made the change to hands-free.

"Of course it makes you a better driver because it makes you more alert you can still talk," said Elzy Spruill who has been driving hands-free for over a year. 

Spruill likes the law and said it will make the roads safer.

"You don't need to be holding your phone and trying to drive and you're trying to watch for other people, so it's a safety issue all the way around," Spruill said.

That is the same for a GPS device. If you use your phone, it must be anchored. You cannot try to dial in an address while you are driving, that also applies to the latest in dash technology.

There is one exception to using your phone while operating a vehicle - to call 911.

If you think you can get away with it, you might think again. Unlike the texting law, it will be much easier to catch a violator since all the officer has to see is the phone in the driver's hand.

The law goes into effect New Year's Day. There will be a 30-day grace period, but come February violators will be fined up to $200.

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