IDAHO FALLS, Idaho ー Police officers in Idaho Falls and Pocatello are beginning to crack down on hands free driving.”If a Pocatello Police officer sees you with your ear to your phone or texting while driving, it will cost you,” according to a City of Pocatello press release.
“Under the ordinance, improperly using a mobile device is punishable as an infraction. Violators will be fined $80 per offense for the first three offenses and a fourth violation in two years is punishable as a misdemeanor.”
Texting and driving laws are already in effect in state laws across the nation. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Montana is the only state without any kind of texting and driving ban. But, lawmakers are now seeing another trend as hands free driving is a growing trends across the nation and most recently, in Idaho.
“We need a deterrent for this,” Idaho Falls Council President Thomas Hally said during a city council meeting in 2018. “Government has the responsibility to protect its citizens when it deems it necessary,”
Idaho Falls’ ordinance prompted Pocatello to institute its’ own hands free ordinance and join the growing list of municipalities to ban any kind of cell phone use behind the wheel.
“Being focused on the road is the best way to prevent a crash,” said Mayor Brian Blad. “We all too often hear about crashes where someone was distracted by their phone and this ordinance firmly says that the City of Pocatello takes the issue of distracted driving very seriously.”
Since then, both cities have been educating the public about new laws during a grace period and now police are beginning enforcement. Jessica Clements, spokeswoman for the Idaho Falls Police Department, told KID NewsRadio many people who have received warnings from law enforcement don’t know what is allowed and not allowed under the ordinance.
“People are able to talk on their cell phones, but the phone can’t be in their hand,” Clements said. “Some people have interpreted it to mean that they can talk on the phone so long as their phone is on speaker. However, the phone is still in their hand and it’s still being operated and so, that is in violation of the ordinance.”
Drivers can use Bluetooth devices or hands free, voice activated options on their phones, Clements said. Ultimately, she added, the ordinance is intended to improve safety on the roads.
“The purpose of the ordinance is to encourage and promote safe driving habits and to regulate the safe use of mobile electronic devices in vehicles to reduce vehicle accidents injuring people and damage to property,” Clements said. “Those are all things that can happen when someone is using a cell phone and isn’t focused on the task at hand.”