You’ve never been to Nevada, but it does not take long for you to get pulled over in your rental car after leaving the airport. The officer comes up and tells you that you were talking on your cellphone, and that’s illegal here. He mentions that texting and driving is also illegal, and you can only use your phone if you have a hands-free system.
It may seem impossible that all cellphone use is off-limits. Indeed, there are a few exceptions:
- Using your phone to report criminal activity to the proper authorities. If you see a hit and run, for instance, you can call 911 to alert the police.
- Using your phone to report a medical emergency. That same hit and run may leave injured people lying on the pavement, and you can call for emergency response units to get them medical care as soon as possible.
- Using a handheld device if you work for the power company and you are driving to an emergency, like a massive power outage after a storm. You can use the company-provided radios and devices.
- Using a radio during an emergency if you are attempting to provide communication when other communication services are knocked out. This applies to amateur radio operators, so anyone can use them to help in an emergency situation.
- Using a phone or other handheld device if you are an emergency medical technician, a firefighter or a police officer and you are using it as part of your job.
If you are in town visiting as a tourist, many of these exceptions do not apply to you. Perhaps the biggest reason to use your phone, though, is if there is a viable emergency. You do not have to refrain from helping someone else or seeking help yourself just because you’re in the car.
For instance, did you know that there were more pedestrian accidents in Nevada in 2017 than ever before? One hundred people died. Crashes like that are especially an issue in Las Vegas, where there is so much foot traffic and many drivers have been drinking. This can lead to a lot of accidents, and people on foot are very exposed and vulnerable if they get hit.
If you see one of those accidents, it is a viable reason to use your phone and call it in. Authorities are well aware of the increasing fatality rate and they know that people have a better chance of making it if the emergency teams arrive quickly.
State laws and your rights
As you can see, even though the state laws may be different than your home state’s as they outlaw cellphone use, that does not mean you have no legal options. It’s important to really understand all aspects of the law and what it could mean for your defense.