Idaho State Police file photo stock image (copy)

Using your cell phone while driving — if it’s not on hands-free mode — will earn you a traffic stop and a possible citation as of January 1.

As of Jan. 1, using your cellphone while driving could earn you a ticket in Idaho.

The state legislature passed a law prohibiting the use of cell phones that are not on a hands-free setting last year. The law went into effect on July 1, but enforcement agencies across the state used the first six months to educate community members instead of issuing tickets for violations.

Idaho State Police have issued more than 700 such warnings since July. Now that the calendar has rolled over to 2021, you might not be so lucky.

“There is nothing on your screen that is worth your life or the life of another,” said ISP Lt. Chris Weadick. “ISP and our local law enforcement agencies are committed to keeping Idaho roads safe. The goal is to change driving behavior and save lives, and we urge all drivers to pay attention when they are behind the wheel.”

According to a release from the Idaho State Police, 241 people were killed in Idaho in crashes attributed to distracted driving between 2014 and 2018. One in five crashes in Idaho has distracted driving as a contributing factor.

Essentially, unless you are enabling hands-free use on your phone (or in an emergency), it’s against the law to be holding a cell phone while operating a vehicle. This includes while stopped in traffic, at stop signs, and at red lights.

Violators will be fined $75, coming to $131.50 with court costs, for a first offense; $150, or $206.50 with costs, for a second offense; and $300, or $356.50, for a third. Three offenses in three years can lead to a license suspension of up to 90 days. Also, two violations in three years could affect your insurance rates.

Idaho State Police recommend enabling bluetooth or hands-free use settings while you’re on the road, or pulling over and parking safely before making or answering a call or sending a text. Enlist the help of your passenger should you need to check the map or respond to a text, or simply switch your phone to “Do Not Disturb” while traveling.