Tusayan opts out of county wide cell phone ban

Distracted driving ordinance enforcement began Nov. 22

TUSAYAN, Ariz. - As of Nov. 22, people who talk on their cell phones or text while driving within the county are at risk of receiving a citation.

In April, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors adopted Ordinance No 2014-09 in an effort to improve public health and safety, according to Board Chair Mandy Metzger.

"It is hoped that this ordinance will help bring attention to distracted driving and enhance safety for everyone that uses our roadways," Metzger said.

The ordinance states, "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 hands-free listening and talking, and is used exclusively in that manner while driving. Texting and typing are banned while operating a motor vehicle."

The restrictions do 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.

• 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 by or any license issued by the Federal Communications Commission or the driver uses a two-way radio, such as a CB radio.

• 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 to operate a handheld portable communications device.

For the purpose of informing and educating the public and motorists, the ordinance allowed for law enforcement officers to issue verbal warnings to persons found violating the ordinance from May 22 through Nov. 22.

Now that the grace period is over, a person found violating the ordinance can face a fine of $100, plus any other penalty assessment authorized by law. If a driver is violates the ordinance and is involved in a collision, they face a $250 fine, plus any other authorized penalty assessments.

The ordinance is in effect countywide,

including in incorporated areas, until individual cities and town councils take

formal action.

The Tusayan town council voted not to follow the county's ordinance. If the council hadn't adopted its own ordinance on the matter, the county ordinance would have automatically taken effect within city limits.

Town Manager Will Wright said the town declined to follow the county's lead on the ban.

"We have not put a ban on hand held use of phones or anything else," Wright said.

According to information from the county, 38 percent of all Department of Public Safety enforcement interventions statewide involved texting, cell phone usage or other electronic media usage between Nov. 27, 2013 and Jan. 24, 2014. This was the highest ranked category.

In addition, nationwide data showed that drivers who use cell phones are four times more likely to be in a crash and drivers who text are 23 times more likely to crash while using their phones.For more information on the county's cell phone ban visit, coconino.az.gov

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