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EDITORIAL: New Year’s resolution: Going hands-free

With the start of 2018 just days away, it’s a good time to remind motorists of the first major change of the new year, at least for those driving within Powell city limits: The city’s ordinance banning the use of cell phones and other hand-held devices goes into effect Jan. 1.

What began as a simple inquiry last October from a councilman who survived a close call with a distracted motorist quickly gained steam, as local law enforcement and legal offices were tasked with drafting an ordinance that would work for the benefit of the community.

Finding more than enough state-wide precedent to proceed, the city followed all of the necessary requirements, including three readings of the ordinance before the City Council and ample opportunity for the public to be heard.

As one would expect, reaction to the proposed ordinance drew passionate responses from residents on both sides of the issue, especially on social media. Yet aside from a few detractors, most seemed in favor of the idea. On the ordinance’s final reading last month, only one resident attended to argue against it.

Agree with it or not, Ordinance No. 21 will become a reality on Monday. The city has received signs for the four main entry points into Powell, and they will be posted this week. Local law enforcement will now begin the implementation process, that will, most likely, consist of warnings and explanations of how the law works. 

But for this ordinance to truly work and have its desired effect, it will take compliance by everyone. Powell Police Chief Roy Eckerdt has reiterated since the beginning that enforcement will be on a case to case basis, as officers and motorists alike will need time to acclimate.

“We issue far more warnings than we do citations; the whole goal of traffic enforcement is to gain compliance, not to hand out tickets,” Eckerdt said last month. “But ... if there’s a pattern of behavior there that proves a warning isn’t going to be sufficient to correct this behavior, then obviously it’s a citation.”

Banning the use of cell phones is not government over-regulation; far from it. Technology exists to make our lives easier, but it also requires a degree of self-regulation to maintain safe and proper use. Someone talking on a cell phone in a restaurant or in a movie theater isn’t dangerous; it’s just rude.

Talking on a cell phone while driving, however, has proven to be dangerous. And as of Monday, it will now be illegal, at least within city limits. Make the most of your New Year, and resolve to go hands-free. The technology is easy to use and readily available. The folks around you, as well as local law enforcement, will be glad you did.

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