A proposal at the statehouse that would have banned municipalities from instituting their own local bans on using cell phones while driving failed to get traction. The legislation’s defeat sets the stage for Pocatello’s prohibition on handheld devices going into effect.
There will be no more verbal or written warnings for drivers in Pocatello. Starting Monday, March 11, the Gate City will issue formal citations for people caught handling their mobile devices while behind the wheel.
It’s a sort of three strikes law. Offenders will be cited with an $80 fine for their first three offenses. On the fourth offense within two years, someone holding their device while driving will be subject to a misdemeanor.
“In Pocatello, inattention is—it goes back and forth, the second to the third leading cause of accidents,” says Dianne Bush, the community services coordinator with Pocatello Police.
Bush says the city was aware of the possible ban on bans.
“I know that our legal department looked into this law before we took the time and the money to pass this ordinance and just saw that it’s been successful in so many other cities across this nation,” Bush says. “So we had a lot of confidence that this law would be upheld.”
There are exceptions. Drivers can use their device with hands-free technology, and first responders also have a carve out.
“Trust me, when this law first went into effect, you know people were calling in saying, ‘I saw a police officer talking on their cellphone,’” says Bush. “Rest assured, they’re not probably talking to their wife or their kids. It has to do with the job or some necessary information.”
Idaho Falls and Blaine County also ban using handheld devices while driving.
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