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Meridian mulling over ban on hand-held cell phone use while driving

The City Council is discussing an ordinance that would ban cell phone use almost completely while driving a car.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — Using your phone while driving could soon be illegal in the city of Meridian. It's something that was brought to City Council at their last workshop meeting by the police department.

It would be called a hands-free ordinance. Which means you could use your phone when driving, if you're not using your hands at all.

"Over the last year we saw about 88 crashes that were caused by people admittedly talking on their cell phones, messing with their cell phones,” Deputy Chief of Police Tracy Basterrechea said.

Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Hailey, and Ketchum all have ordinances in place that are similar to this. At this time, no ordinance has been drafted as the city is only in the discussion stage of having an ordinance like this.

RELATED: Blaine County to begin enforcing hands-free driving ordinance

“That way we can ultimately draft an ordinance that is right for our community,” Basterrechea said.

The City Council wants to know what the residents think of it first. Most people KTVB spoke with were in favor of having a rule against it.

“People aren't usually looking at the road when they're texting,” said Meridian resident Travis McQueary.

“Definitely seen lots of people when I'm driving around, swerving and you can tell they're on their phone,” said Meridian resident Misty Hill. “It does cause accidents.”

The City Council also said this was a statewide issue and questioned if it should just be left up to them when the state Legislature could pass a bill that would ban the same thing. However, a bill that would do that just failed this past session.

RELATED: Bill to ban cell phones while driving defeated by Idaho Senate

"We just think it's a good idea that if the state Legislature is failing to act upon these traffic safety issues, we should act on them at a local level,” Basterrechea said.

The city has already passed an ordinance that prevents texting and driving. This ordinance would be a step up essentially and would ban using your hands to use your phone while you’re driving.

"As long as it isn't in your hand, you can talk on the phone," Basterrechea said. "Most cars these days have Bluetooth systems that work that way anyway, it's a smart way to use that phone.”

The police are going to look over the ordinances in the other towns and bring this issue back up with council sometime in August or September. The department and council wants to see if the public is interested in a ban like this.

"I have two boys and I worry about them texting and driving, and too many things happen and it's those people who say it's not going to happen to me and it could happen to anybody,” Hill said.

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