After weeks of debate and public hearings, The Meridian City Council has approved an ordinance that prohibits the use of mobile devices and cellphones while driving within Meridian city limits.
The ordinance passed Tuesday night (10/22). But it didn’t pass easily. It required Mayor Tammy deWeerd to cast the tie-breaking vote.
The ban goes into effect immediately and police officers will begin stopping drivers who are seen using their phones while driving. But between now and the end of the year, drivers who are pulled over will only be given a warning. Beginning in January, drivers who are caught with a phone in their hands while in their car on roadways, whether stopped or not, will receive tickets that carry a fine of $90 for each infraction.
The new law will still allow for drivers to use cellphones if they are operating them in hands-free mode, but according to Meridian Police Chief Jeff Lavey, in an article posted in the Idaho Statesman, “This particular law says you cannot have your cellphone in your hand while you’re on a public roadway. That also includes while your car is stopped at an intersection or stop light, whether the vehicle is moving or not.
Meridian becomes the third city in Idaho to ban hand held cell phones while driving, joining Pocatello and Idaho Falls…. and they probably won’t be the last.
We have all seen the statistics, distracted driving causes a large number of accidents every year and not just in Idaho, but across the US.
Texting and driving is already illegal, with heavy punishment in some states. In Alaska for instance, a texting and driving fine will cost you $10,000 and up to a year in jail. If the collision results in injury, the charge becomes a Class C felony, with a fine of up to $50,000 and five years in prison. Now that’s a law that has some teeth.
Here in Meridian, we’re talking about a $90 fine. It’s a small price to pay, to hopefully educate us all on how dangerous it can be to do something as simple as talking on your mobile device while you’re driving.
I’m usually not in favor of the government, whether it be federal, state or local, giving us even more laws to follow, that tell us what we can and can’t do. But this is one law that I think is really needed, especially as we see more and more traffic with the large amount of growth we’ve already seen and are expecting over the next decade.
In the past two weeks alone, I personally have had to swerve out of the way, on two separate occasions to avoid being hit by a car that was attempting to turn into my lane….each time, as I looked over, they both were talking on their phones and simply not paying attention…and in one instance, the driver had two small children in the back seat. Luckily, I was paying attention and was able to get out of the way before getting hit
Now that we have the hands free ban in Meridian, hopefully it won’t be long before other Treasure Valley towns decide that the ban is also a good idea. Or maybe even the state legislature will look into a ban in the upcoming session, beginning in January.
Next, can we please look into a ban on people who eat tacos, spaghetti and soup while driving? Maybe while we’re at it, we can look into a ban on shaving, doing your make up or changing your clothes. Yes, I’ve witnessed every one of these things happen in my years of driving….sometimes in my own car.
What are your thoughts? Are you in favor of the new ban of holding your cell phone while driving? Do you want to see it in more towns, than just Meridian?