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Using your cell phone while driving in Idaho Falls may soon be illegal


IDAHO FALLS — Texting, updating social media, changing songs on a playlist and trying to figure out where that restaurant is. They’re all reasons drivers get distracted while behind the wheel causing a danger to other drivers around them.

The Idaho Falls City Council wants to put an end to the distractions, and get drivers focused on the road.

“We just want to get the phone out of your hand. That’s basically what we’re trying to accomplish,” City Councilman Jim Freeman says.

Freeman introduced the proposed ordinance during a work session on Monday, and the city council has decided it’s time to move forward with draft. As this handheld ban is a work in progress the city is looking for public input on the matter.

The state of Idaho has already enacted a ban on texting and driving; however, the new Idaho Falls ordinance would further limit the use of cell phones while driving and only allow for hands-free use while operating a vehicle within city limits.

Freeman says he’s had the idea of reducing distracted driving for several years.

“Anybody who drives a car sees people at the stop light who don’t know the light has turned green because they’re looking at their phone,” he says. “It’s hard not to take a glance at it, and then we get away with it, right? Every time that you get away with it, it reinforces that it’s okay to do it.”

Freeman says unlike the seatbelt laws, or helmet laws, this ordinance has to do with the safety of others around you.

“It will be a primary offense – which means that the police can pull you over for this. A secondary offense is when they pull you over for something else and then you get a secondary ticket,” Freeman says.

Freeman says they are considering a fine of $50 for violating the ordinance. The ordinance, as discussed in the work session, would have various allowances including for emergency responders as well as for residents using their phones for GPS guidance.

“We thought we’d give people an opportunity to get a ticket three times for it in a two year period, and then it would become a misdemeanor,” Freeman says.

The city council is currently in the early stages of discussion regarding the ordinance, and council members have asked for additional local data. They also hope to receive residential input on the proposed ordinance.

City departments including Public Works and the Police Department will be assembling existing data on distracted driving. The city is encouraging residents to contact council members individually to provide thoughts and input on the ordinance.

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