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June will apparently be the last month in history where Nevada drivers can talk on their handheld cell phones for any reason while driving.

Yesterday, the state Assembly voted 24-17 in favor of a Senate Bill 140, which would outlaw the use of handheld cell phones while behind the wheel of a vehicle. This includes talking, texting, and any other applications found on these mobile devices. The bill must go back to the state Senate for a minor amendment, but it appears headed for the governor’s desk very soon.

It is important to note that drivers who utilize hands-free cell phones may still use them to talk to callers while they are driving. The litmus test is that both hands must be free to hold the steering wheel at all times during such operations.

There are several exemptions contained in SB 140. Individuals who are allowed to use cell phones while driving include:

• On-duty law enforcement officers
• On-duty emergency personnel (like firefighters and paramedics)
• Drivers reporting or requesting assistance for a medical emergency
• Drivers reporting criminal activity
• Drivers reporting a safety hazard

The bill is slated to take effect on July 1. However, there will be a “phasing-in” period which will only permit police to issue warnings to drivers who defy the ban during 2011. Beginning on January 1, 2012, the penalties for violating the law will be:

• $50 for the 1st offense
• $100 for a second offense
• $250 for a third offense and any infractions after that
• Six-month suspension of a driver’s license on the third and subsequent offenses

SB 140 was implemented in response to studies which show an increased risk of accidents among drivers who use handheld cell phones.