Six months after city leaders banned hand-held cell phone use while driving, Powell police have yet to cite anyone for the offense.
“We haven’t issued any citations, [but] a lot of warnings,” Powell Police Chief Roy Eckerdt said Friday.
Since January, when the Powell City Council’s prohibition on the use of hand-held devices while driving took effect, officers handed out 24 warnings, according to police records. That’s an average of about one warning per week.
Eckerdt said the department continues to focus on educating people about the ordinance and changing behaviors.
“The whole goal is to bring people into compliance, and if a warning will do that, it’s going to be a warning,” he said.
However, he cautioned that getting caught on a cellphone multiple times will result in a citation.
At Powell Municipal Court, a violation of the hands-free rules will generally bring a $25 fine, plus $10 in court costs.
As for how many drivers are currently obeying the new ordinance, “I think we have tremendous compliance when a police car is in view,” the chief quipped.
Still, even when driving in his unmarked truck, Eckerdt said he’s seeing fewer people on their phones.
“People are trying to comply,” he said.
If the chief’s personal experience is any indication, it’s a matter of changing habits.
“It was challenging in the beginning, but not so much anymore, as I’ve gotten used to it,” Eckerdt said. “If I get really desperate, I figure out how to make the Bluetooth [hands-free phone option] work.”
Powell is the only area community with a ban on hand-held devices while driving.
Meanwhile, texting while driving is prohibited all across the state — unless it’s done with hands-free technology.