New Law: No Handheld Cellphone Use While Driving
A new law, prohibiting the use of handheld mobile phones while driving, goes into effect in Puerto Rico on 01 January 2013. The law specifically bans drivers from texting or talking on cellphones, without the use of hands-free equipment, while driving.
Violations carry a $50 fine.
Note that violating this law is a primary offense — You can be pulled over and ticketed just for talking on the phone (without hands-free equipment) or for texting while driving. You do not need to be pulled over for some other moving violation first.
The bill was signed into law back in October 2011, but the enforcement of the law as delayed until now to allow for a period of public education and orientation about the new law, and for the installation of road signs informing the driving public about the law.
What Does the Law Say?
- The law goes into effect 01 January 2013.
- Violations carry a $50 fine.
- All drivers are prohibited from talking on wireless or mobile phones, without the use of hands-free equipment, while operating a motor vehicle.
- All drivers are prohibited from using portable electronic devices for reading or writing text or email messages while operating a motor vehicle.
- This law applies to all drivers — cars, trucks, motorcycles, buses — no exceptions.
- Cellphones may be used by the driver to make medical or security emergency calls.
- Cellphones may be used by the driver to initiate or terminate a phone call.
- Cellphones may be used by the driver while the car is not running, and while the car is not in traffic.
- Cellphones may be used by the driver as a GPS unit while driving.
- Hands-free equipment is defined as a speaker-phone, cabled earphones/headset, wireless/Bluetooth earphones/headset, or a vehicle-integrated microphone/speaker system.
When this law was first proposed, the fine was going to be $100/violation. But it was argued that $100 would be too much of a hardship for people to pay, so it was lowered to $50. Um … I thought that was the whole point of a fine.
They’ve had 14 months to install road signs to make people aware of the law. Has anyone seen any of these signs? I sure haven’t!
I’m not sure if a cellphone wedged into a motorcycle helmet qualifies as hands-free equipment. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Apparently, initiating a call (i.e. dialing a cellphone) is not a distraction while driving. Funny … I find that to be the most distracting part.
For More Info …
You can find out more about Ley de Vehículos de Tránsito de Puerto Rico articles 1.42-A, 1.97-B and 10.25 on the Comisión para la Seguridad en el Tránsito web site (in Spanish).