Coconino County bans most uses of mobile devices while driving - CBS 5 - KPHO

Coconino County bans most uses of mobile devices while driving

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The Coconino County Board of Supervisors has approved an ordinance that bans texting and typing on portable communications devices and limits mobile phone conversations to hands-free devices while driving within the county.

The board capped years of research and months of deliberations with its decision Tuesday night, a move backed by many county residents who urged its passage, said Nathan Gonzalez, a spokesman for the county.

County Ordinance 2014-03 goes into effect May 22 and states that "a person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a portable communications device to engage in a call unless that device is configured to allow hand-free listening and talking, and is used exclusively in that manner while driving. Texting and typing are banned while operating a motor vehicle."

For years, county officials postponed passing a county ordinance, hoping that Arizona lawmakers would enact a statewide law placing restrictions on the use of cellphones and other devices while driving, said Board Chairman Matt Ryan.

But the Arizona Legislature has yet to pass any laws regulating mobile device use while driving and the state remains one of three in the nation without any form of regulation, Ryan said.

"Our board feels strongly that this is a public health and safety issue that needs to be addressed. Countless studies have shown that distracted drivers are far more likely to be involved in a crash than those who are focused on what's going on around them," Ryan said.

The ordinance does not apply when:

  • The driver uses a hands-free mobile device.
  • The purpose of the call is to communicate an emergency to a police or fire department, a hospital or physician's office, or an ambulance corps.
  • Operating an authorized law enforcement or emergency vehicle in the performance of official duties.
  • A person who holds a valid amateur radio operator license issued or any license issued by the Federal Communications Commission and is operating an amateur radio under the direction of authorized first responders in the event of an emergency.
  • A person is driving a motor vehicle on private property.
  • A driver has pulled off of the traveled portion of the roadway in a safe and legal location and placed the vehicle in park in order to operate a handheld portable communications device.

"It was important for the safety of our residents that we implement these safety measures in our area," Ryan said. "However, we still urge our lawmakers to consider a similar measure at the state level."

Law enforcement officers will be allowed to issue verbal warnings to violators for six months after the ordinance is adopted and retain discretion as to whether to issue a citation.

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