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Boise votes to ban drivers from using cellphones

Here’s when you’ll get tickets, fines
Texas deputy caught texting and driving by man he arrested
Posted at 10:12 AM, Feb 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-05 12:12:08-05

BOISE, Idaho — Want to use your cellphone while driving in Idaho’s largest city? That’s about to cost you.

The Boise City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to ban drivers from using cellphones except in “a hands-free mode of operation.” The new ordinance is similar to one Meridian passed in October.

The ordinance was proposed by City Council President Pro Tem Holli Woodings, who cited fears about public safety when she brought it before the council. Any ordinances approved by the council must be read three times before becoming part of the city code, which Woodings said should put it into the books by early March.

Here’s everything you need to know about Boise’s new ordinance.

WHAT DOES THE NEW ORDINANCE RESTRICT?

The short version? If you’re in a traffic lane, you can’t use your phone.

That means that you can’t use your phone even at a red light. If you want to make a call or send a text, you’ll need to pull off the road. Woodings said she decided to extend the ban even to red lights after learning that studies show it typically takes 30 seconds for someone’s attention to fully return to the road after they’re distracted by phones.

“You might not be aware if there’s a pedestrian in the crosswalk or a bicyclist coming up on the side of you,” she said. “There’s various different scenarios that can arise in those 30 seconds where you’re not aware of your surroundings, but you’re still traveling in a very large metal box that can hurt others around you.”

You still may use your phone in a hands-free mode, which varies from phone to phone but could include the speakerphone and voice-controlled actions.

WHEN WILL I START GETTING TICKETS?

The Boise Police Department can start pulling people over for using their phones as soon as the proposed ordinance goes into law, but officers won’t give out tickets until July 1, officials said.

In the meantime, officers will pull people over for “educational stops.” During those stops, officers will not write tickets under the new ordinance but would instruct drivers about the new law and issue a warning.

People can still get tickets for other violations under state law, however. State law bans inattentive driving, texting while driving and following too closely, but there is a bill working through the Idaho Legislature that would ban distracted driving outright.

HOW MUCH WILL BOISE TICKETS COST?

Much as it is with Meridian’s law, violators of the cellphone ban will have to pay $90 plus court costs. There will be no points assessed to a violator’s license, although violations of the law against following too closely can lead to three points on a license.

Racking up 12 to 17 points in any 12-month period can lead to a 30-day license suspension. Higher point totals can bring longer suspensions.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME?

Interim Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson said he anticipates that the ban will lead to less road rage and fewer impatient drivers. He also said he thinks it will lessen the number of accidents in the city.

It also means that Boise likely will have new signs going up regarding the ban, although the City Council said it would reach out to the Ada County Highway District to collaborate on them. (ACHD controls many of the roads in Boise.) It is not clear how much those signs will cost.

To read Hayley Harding's full story, check out the Idaho Statesman.