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The 411 on Vt. ban on hand-held devices for drivers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

The 411 on Vt. ban on hand-held devices for drivers

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WILLISTON, Vt. -

Vermont's new ban won't force drivers to hang up, but it will force them to put the phone down. When October arrives motorists will be able to touch their devices to activate or deactivate them, but otherwise need to operate hands-free.

The ban covers any portable electronic device like laptops, but not CB or licensed amateur radios. Phones must be secured in place and not attached to the windshield.

"I think it's smart to have some sort of regulations on it," one driver told us.

Lt. Garry Scott is Traffic Safety Commander for the Vermont State Police. He says in October, a spike in texting-and-driving tickets will like accompany the new hand-held ban. Scott says once all hand-held phone activity is banned the no-texting law will be easier to enforce.

"Now we see a person with the phone in their hand, we are able to at least stop them and do an investigation from there," Scott said.

The state issued about 200 texting-while-driving tickets in 2013. But unlike those tickets, the hand-held ban won't come with a points assessment unless you're caught in a work zone. First offenses will cost between $100 and $200, and between $250 and $500 for subsequent violations.

In other states, similar bans led to temporary dips in crash rates.

"How do we get people from not playing a trumpet when they're driving, reading a textbook; this is just one step in the right direction," Scott said.

"I think that's fine," another driver said. "It is distracting to use a cellphone when you're driving."

There will still be one valid excuse for having a phone to your ear and that's if you're calling emergency services.

The introduction of cellphones led to faster response times decades ago. Now police hope to cut down on some of the negative side effects.

The state will release an educational campaign in August and post signs to make sure the ban doesn't catch anyone by surprise.

Workers at an electronics retailer told us Thursday there's been a slight bump in hands-free device sales since the ban passed, but not to the extent one might imagine.

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