Cell phone driver

BOISE — Ada County officials have drafted an ordinance that would ban handheld device use by drivers. The proposal mirrors aspects of Meridian’s recently passed ban, and county commissioners hope more cities jump on board. The county’s ban would only cover county areas outside of city limits.

“I think it’s really critical we put it in place and think it’s really critical our sister cities are on the same page,” Commissioner Kendra Kenyon said Wednesday at a quarterly meeting with the Ada County sheriff.

The draft states that the “use of a mobile electronic device by a person in actual physical control of a motor vehicle on a public road or highway within unincorporated areas of Ada County shall be unlawful.”

Exceptions would include:

  • Drivers using hands-free electronics
  • Law enforcement and firefighters
  • Drivers of commercial vehicles following federal regulations
  • People in parked vehicles that are outside of a lane of traffic
  • Drivers reporting an emergency

The ordinance also allows people to “activate, deactivate or initiate a feature or function” on their phone if they keep one hand on the wheel.

The commission has expressed a desire to work with other cities in the Treasure Valley to adopt the hands-free ordinance, making enforcement uniform throughout Ada County. Part of that uniformity would be the same fine for violating the ban.

Terry Derden, the chief legal adviser for the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, said an earlier draft of the ordinance had placed the fine at $100 plus court costs, but after taking another look at Meridian’s ordinance, it made more sense to align with that and set the fine at $90.

Derden also noted other cities had reached out to Ada County about the ordinance, including Mayor Joe Stear of Kuna.

“It’s been a topic of discussion,” Stear said about adopting the hands-free ordinance.

Stear said he planned to take the draft ordinance in front of the Kuna City Council to see if there was appetite to pass the law. The “severity of the problem” warrants a council discussion, he said.

The Ada County Commission will not finalize the ordinance until after the next Treasure Valley Partnership meeting, when they can present their ordinance to other leaders in the Valley. The TVP is a group of mayors, commissioners and other elected officials whose goal is to be “dynamic in responding to change in our region” as a unit, according to their website.

Ada County spokeswoman Elizabeth Duncan said there was no definitive timeline for the adoption of the ordinance, but that the process was “ongoing.”

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