Nevada drivers will welcome the New Year on Sunday, and a new law which says drivers are prohibited from using cell phones while driving. The new law is to help reduce the number of crashes attributed to distracted driving.

In case you didn’t know it, distracted driving is the exact opposite of defensive driving. It means that instead of paying attention to yourself and your surroundings, you’re simply not paying attention to anything at all.

The new law in Nevada is a strict interpretation of the cell phone ban. It provides severe penalties for drivers who continue to use their cell phones either to make a call or send and receive text messages. Nevada legislators approved the new law this past year and it takes effect with the new year. Their passage of the new law preceded a recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board which said sates should ban the use of all handheld devices by drivers. This recommendation was welcomed by many states, 35 of which already have strict laws against the use of cell phones or text messaging by drivers. But some legislators, such as those in Texas, have resisted a statewide ban, saying they support local measures instead.

The new ban on handheld phones and testing for drivers is statute SB 140. Anyone who breaks the law is subject to a $50 fine on their first offense, a $100 fine for their second offense and a $250 fine for each additional offense. If you cause a crash because you were texting and driving or chatting on your cell phone while driving, and you hurt or kill somebody else, you could face between 1 and 6 years in prison and an additional $2,000-$5,000 fine.

You can always turn to a defensive driving course to help you get the points off your license, but the fines and fees can really pile up. The best advice is that you turn your cell phone off before you get into your vehicle. Don’t take the chance that you might be tempted to answer it or “make a quick call” while driving. It just isn’t worth the risk.