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Calling 9-1-1? Pull over

If I remember right, drivers are going to be banned from using cell phones in their cars in the near future, but I was wondering if drivers will be exempt from that law if they come upon an accident that just happened or they want to report a drunk driver. Will the law allow us to call 9-1-1 without the fear of getting a ticket in the mail?

— Kathy M., Medford

You're right, Kathy, on Jan. 1, 2010, cell phones can't be used in a car unless you use a hands-free device. We talked to Medford police Deputy Chief Tim George about your question. He said, "My suggestion is to pull over. A couple of extra seconds is probably not going to matter."

He said if you think you're going to want to use a cell phone in the car, get a hands-free device. If you call 9-1-1, you won't get a ticket in the mail, because an officer has to see you using the cell phone. Giving a ticket is discretionary on the part of the officer, as well.

"We don't write a ticket for everybody we stop," George said. If there is a life-or-death situation, that would probably be taken into account if you were pulled over.

"You'd better have a believable emergency for an excuse," he said.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.