The ban on cell phone use while driving officially went into effect in Hailey today, making it the third city in Idaho to adopt such an ordinance.
Hailey now joins Sandpoint and Ketchum in enforcing a ban on cell phones while driving.
The law banning the use of handheld devices while driving officially goes into effect today, but Hailey police say there is still a generous education period ahead. During that time the city will work to get the word out with flashing signs, and campaigns both in print and online.
"I see it all the time, I see it with driving patterns, swerving into lanes, things like that," said Hailey Assistant Police Chief David Stellers.
City officials in Hailey are taking distracted driving into their own hands.
“People think they can handle that distraction but they really can't," said Stellers.
The new ordinance bans the use of all handheld devices while driving in city limits. That includes using cell phones to call, text or read emails.
"It's especially concerning in Hailey because our downtown main street is a state highway,” said Stellers. “Very congested, lots of pedestrians a lot of commercial traffic during the day, so it's very busy."
And Hailey isn't alone. It joins Sandpoint and nearby Ketchum as the third such city in Idaho to enact such bans. And the idea is spreading ever further.
"We feel that it's in the public interest for the safety, health and welfare of the community that we enact this ordinance," said Blaine County Commissioner Jacob Greenburg.
Greenburg says Blaine County is now considering banning cell phones while driving altogether. The idea to enact the law came after seeing a rise in drivers distracted across the valley.
"It is our intent to be consistent across jurisdictions," said Greenburg. "So when you're driving from Ketchum to Hailey you have to go through the county and we'd like for that ordinance to be consistent across jurisdictions."
Like Hailey and Ketchum, Blaine County's ordinance does allow for drivers to make hands-free calls using a Bluetooth device. It also makes an exception for using phones in an emergency and in rural areas.
"We have a draft ordinance in place and we'll be discussing that and taking public comment to see if people have other ideas that we might incorporate," said Greenburg.
Meanwhile, Hailey police says there's still no timeline for when it will begin handing out citations to violators of the ban.
"We have signs in place as well and we'll be putting permanent signs, we have signs at the post office, public buildings," said Stellers. "We're generally going to be educating people before we take any enforcement action.”
Ketchum announced earlier this summer that it would wait a year before handing out tickets, which could cost drivers $100.
Greenberg says he hopes that the push for safer roads doesn't stop with Blaine County.
"I think every county is a good candidate for this ordinance because it is a form of inattentive driving. When you're driving you should just be driving,” said Greenburg.
Blaine County commissioners have a special meeting set for next Monday to discuss the countywide ordinance. That meeting is a chance for the public to weigh in.
So far, the county says its proposal has been very well received.
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