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City mulls distracted driving ordinance

Scott Mangold Scott Mangold

Proposal would ban cell phone usage while driving in city limits

A new, proposed City of Powell ordinance is likely to get community members on both sides of the issue talking in the coming weeks.

Ordinance No. 21 — which would prohibit driving while using a cellular telephone with the potential of some exceptions — was approved unanimously by the Powell City Council at its first reading on Oct. 16.

The approval opens the door for two more readings on Nov. 6 and Nov. 20, and if passed, will go into law shortly after that. Jokingly referred to at last week’s meeting as the “Mangold Ordinance,” Councilman Scott Mangold put the idea before Powell Police Chief Roy Eckerdt after a near miss with an inattentive driver on a cell phone downtown.

“Scott [Mangold] just about got ran over in a crosswalk,” Eckerdt said. “This ordinance is his project, and he had asked if I would support something like that. I told him I think we’ve reached a time that it’s probably necessary to take a look at it.”

The ordinance as it’s currently written would allow the use of a cell phone if it is “specifically designed to allow hands-free operation and is used in a hands-free manner.” Councilman Tim Sapp mentioned a recent study concerning the dangers of using a hands-free device while driving, and wondered if the results of the study would be taken into account when considering the hands-free exception.

“I won’t speak for the chief, but I think he’s OK with trying the use of hands-free devices, since it seems to be kind of industry standard right now,” said Mayor John Wetzel. “It’s a good question to bring up to the chief.”

Councilman Eric Paul wondered how a ban on hands-free devices could be enforced.

“I can’t figure out how you would enforce that,” Paul said. “Is somebody singing along to the radio? Talking to themselves? Talking to someone in the back seat? There are lots of things that distract a driver.”

Since the proposed ordinance is in its infancy, there is plenty of time for revision and public comment.

“The time to make your concerns heard is at these public meetings,” Eckerdt said. “If you have some honest and valid input, show up and supply it.”

The ordinance in front of the council was patterned after an ordinance currently in use in Cheyenne. Eckerdt said he chose that ordinance as a model because it’s “clear cut.”

“You just can’t be utilizing a hand-held device while you’re driving,” he said, explaining that includes GPS, texting and talking on the phone.

“Your focus needs to be on the road,” Eckerdt said. “So what this ordinance will do is limit yourself to hands-free only. Talking to the chief down there [in Cheyenne], the community is pretty happy with it to the point that the chief said he gets calls when officers don’t stop somebody talking on their cell phones.”

Should the ordinance be approved on second and third readings, City Attorney Sandee Kitchen said it would generally go into effect the day it’s published in the Powell Tribune.

“It will be important to let the public know if the police department will be issuing tickets right away, or whether they will be issuing warnings,” Kitchen said. “Obviously it is a big change in the municipality, and so I think you’d want the public to know. This is the first reading, so maybe administration or the mayor would like to have a discussion with the chief as to perhaps a delayed effective date.”

Eckerdt said he plans to recommend an effective date of Jan. 1.

“I don’t compare this to the trailer [parking] ordinance, where it affected just the people living in town,” Eckerdt explained. “The cell phone ordinance is going to affect everyone, so if we pick a date in the future, it gives the city time to get signage up to let people know we do have an ordinance. It also gives the ordinance time to be talked about in the newspaper, put on our website, on our Facebook pages to get the word out. Then we’ll start enforcing it.”

Signage was another aspect of the ordinance that council felt needed to be addressed relatively soon if the ordinance was to go into effect before the end of the year.

“People that live here may hear about it, may know about it,” Kitchen said. “But somebody traveling through may not know. But if you have a sign that says ‘cell phone use prohibited,’ that would be another good discussion to have.”

Streets Superintendent Gary Butts suggested that the city could utilize the same kind of signage as the speed limit signs at the four main entry points into Powell.

“As people come into Powell, we have ‘25 mph unless posted otherwise’ signs,” Butts said. “It would be very similar to that.”

As for enforcement of the ordinance, Eckerdt said officer discretion would be a factor. Everything the police department does is based on “the totality of the circumstances.”

“With the exception of illicit drugs and DUIs, we don’t have a hard-and-fast rule of what gets a citation every time,” he said. “History of contacts, driving history, all of that will come into play. However, if you do something extremely egregious while the cell phone is in your hand — like almost creaming somebody in a crosswalk — even if it’s a first offense, you might still get a ticket.”

Last week’s council meeting clocked in at 31 minutes, and covered quite a bit of ground, from a request to waive building permit fees for a project at the Park County Fairgrounds to the approval of a bid for the purchase of a new mini-excavator and skidsteer.

10 comments

  • posted by Christopher Kuntz

    October 29, 2017 1:15 pm

    Dear Scott Mangold...

    2010 cell phone/texting legislation:

    SF 20: Bans text messaging devices by all drivers on Wyoming’s roads and highways. Primary enforcement with a fine of $75. Backed by the House transportation committee on Feb. 8. Preliminary approval by full Senate on a voice vote, Feb. 10. Approved by the House on March 3 (third reading). Sent to governor Gov. Dave Freudenthal, who signed it a week later. The ban on driving and texting went into effect on July 1, 2010. (Representative Esquibel)

    Have the Law enforced.


    Citizenry of Powell WY:
    Our own lawmakers, are so absent minded, they don't have the depth or breath of intelligence to research a law is already on the books, its statewide, and a $75 fine. Texting while driving.

    Scott Mangold want to fine me for using the cellphone bluetooth technology my automobile already comes with? That id USDOT approved?

    Scott Mangold is going to fine me for singing along to my iTune songs on my cell phone.

    Scott Mangold going to fine me for using the speakerphone option on my cell phone when my son calls home from his Army deployment to South Korea, and I want the whole family to listen in?

    Scott Mangold is going to fine me when I receive a phone call from Park County Schools with a safety bulletin or organizational activities?

    I smell Fascism.

  • posted by Christopher Kuntz

    October 29, 2017 12:42 pm

    OK... When I see a Powell Policeman or a Park County Sheriff on his / her cell phone, do I make a citizens arrest? Or do I call it in, report it, and nothing happen?? I say this, because not a day goes by where I do not see a police officer on patrol, steering wheel in one hand, cell phone in the other. OH, never mind, they will be exempt, along with the EMS crews in their Ambulance, and of course, the City Dog catcher.

    Are we really going to pass an ordinance because Scott Mangold ALMOST had a boo boo ?

    Sounds like Mrs. Altermatt with her "no smoking ordinance" she tried to shove down the bar owners throats a few years back, all the while, living off of her government grant.

    Thank God for "Air Handler" !

    This proposed law is a joke, much like our entire city council, and city leadership.

    I almost got hit by a car on my motorcycle in Powell, I guess I should run for city council, and propose a law banning all cars in the city limits of Powell.

  • posted by Duane Dearcorn

    October 27, 2017 4:51 pm

    According to the news article, it sounds like it's a done deal, even though there are two more readings. Why are they talking about the signage needed and it's placement, along with it going into affect on Jan 1st. Whoa, my question is why doesn't anyone on the council ever question anything, ever, and they always pass everything unanimously, how can that be. I'm not sure if I agree or disagree with this ordinance. But why can't we take some time, months, a year, and really look at this and get it right. What about eating or taking that drink from that soda, it's all distractive driving. we have enough ordinances on the books that are not enforced, properly, unless there is a complaint. Like was asked in another comment, will more law enforcement be needed, come on, we are only a town of 5 to 6 thousand people. How many employees does this town need? In my opinion, our priorities are way off.

  • posted by Dustin

    October 27, 2017 8:30 am

    Thank you government for stepping in and showing us how stupid we really are.

  • posted by Paula Dee

    October 25, 2017 5:54 pm

    Speaking as one who has spent a lot of time on highways in 3 states, I must say that this is overdue. I've seen some awful near-misses and accidents - many due to someone thinking they are the exception, the ONE PERSON who can text or have a conversation and still keep an eye on the road. Nothing is so important that we can't pull to the side if we get a very important call, or stop for a few minutes if we feel the need to chat with someone. People are so tethered to their phones that they don't bother to stop yakking on them even when going through check-out at the grocery store. Ask the cashiers how they feel about that. Put the damned thing down while you're en route somewhere. Give yourself and other drivers a fighting chance to live longer. It's a shame that such a common sense idea has to be made a law in order for people to take it seriously.

  • posted by Mark Brisson

    October 25, 2017 10:10 am

    Texting is not just a "teen" problem. There are millions of employees who seek to do work while behind the wheel. Fleet vehicles/company cars are on the road more than teen drivers. They "multi-task" becoming very distracted.

    The State wants to increase fees and fines, but there is a tech way to stop these distraction. There are apps to block you using your phone when you drive. AT&T DriveMode is one example and it is FREE!

    One area that is rarely discussed is that each state has hundreds of State vehicles that inspectors, regulators and the agricultural department use as fleet vehicles, but they do not have the technology to diminish distracted driving. I would love to see one state lead by example and use a program, like FleetMode, to block texts, redirect incoming phone calls, and impede all other apps in the State vehicles. If we want our state roads to be safer, let’s start by making our state vehicles safer.

  • posted by Bill

    October 24, 2017 6:40 pm

    This is the stupidest idea that I have ever heard for a small town from the city council. You should worry about improving things in this town besides this nonsense.

  • posted by Salty Dawg

    October 24, 2017 1:56 pm

    Good luck trying to enforce it when the law is doing the very same thing.

  • posted by Concern citizen

    October 24, 2017 8:48 am

    Seems like another way for this town to make more money and for Ms. Kitchen to pontificate in court. Honestly I sure wish they would focus more on the drugs, the people blowing stop signs and enforcing laws in all parts of town. It seems the west end sure doesn't get the attention other areas do.

  • posted by Disgusted taxpayer

    October 24, 2017 8:42 am

    That's funny...I moaned about this very problem around Powell when these cell phones first became a big rage and idiot drivers were using them...even the cops were doing it.No one said anything about this problem then. This has become a national problem...and many cities have instituted a similar ordinance long ago,so why did it take so long for Powell people to wake up?

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