Surprise leaders adopt texting-while-driving ban

[file photo/Jacob Stanek/Independent Newsmedia]

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By Matt Roy, Independent Newsmedia

City leaders last night adopted new rules to prevent texting while driving in the community.

On a 7-0 vote, Surprise City Council approved a measure making all but hands-free mobile device use illegal while operating a vehicle in the city. The move came during the panel’s Aug. 7 regular meeting at City Hall, 16000 N. Civic Center Plaza.

“This ordinance is another tool in the Drive Wise, Surprise campaign to encourage safe driving habits,” stated Surprise Police Chief Terry Young in an official press release following the vote. “The only place your eyes should be while driving is on the road. No text message or phone call is worth risking a collision.”

Under the revised ordinance, violators will face a fine of up to $250 and breaking the rule is a primary offense – which means, if a police officer witnesses a violation, that is enough cause to pull a driver over for citation.

The offense is officially defined like this: “No person shall, except otherwise provided in this section, use a mobile communication device while operating a motor vehicle upon a street or highway, unless that device is specifically designed or configured to allow hands-free use and is used in that manner while operating a motor vehicle.”

As such, texting, checking email or holding a cell phone will be illegal whenever operating a vehicle, even when waiting at a stoplight or in stand-still traffic. Only hands-free uses are permitted in all cases.

Exemptions are provided for drivers trying to inform emergency personnel about an emergency or for cell phone use by public safety personnel involved in official duties.

Though not an exemption, an affirmative defense was considered as part of the measure, potentially allowing for use of two-way radio communication by postal workers, delivery drivers, truck drivers and cab drivers, among others.

Enforcement of the law will begin 30 calendar days following the Aug. 7 approval.

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