Archive for Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Ban sought on cell phone use

Mayor sees danger in drivers using phones

June 27, 2001

It is the hope of Basehor Mayor Bill Hooker to join Brooklyn, N.Y., as one of the few cities that have an ordinance banning cell phone use while driving.

"Even before I was mayor, I thought everybody ought to have something on this," Hooker said. "What really enforces my thinking is that in Johnson County, you'll see seven out of 10 drivers talking on a cell phone. They cannot be concentrating on driving like they should be.

"Now that I'm in a position where I can do something about it, I hope to do something about it."

John Rasmussen, assistant legal counsel for the Kansas League of Municipalities, said he is not aware of any other city in Kansas with such an ordinance.

"To my knowledge, Basehor would be the first that I know of," Rasmussen said. "I know New York has one because it was national, but I am not aware of anyone else in Kansas."

Hooker used the Brooklyn Mobile Telephone Operation Ordinance as a model for a rough draft version of the proposed Basehor ordinance that he personally prepared, he said.

If Hooker and the City Council pass the ordinance, there would be several levels of severity for any motorist in violation of the ordinance, Hooker said.

For a first-time offender, Hooker said there would be a warning given unless the use of the cell phone was deemed responsible for causing an accident.

A second offense would warrant a $10 fine.

If convicted of a third offense, the person would be given a $100 fine and if the use of the phone causes an accident, an additional $500 fine would be assessed as well as a day in jail.

Under Hooker's plan, signs would be located at the entry points to the city that would explain the ban on cell phone use. Once a motorist is outside the city limits, they are free to use their phone as they wish, Hooker said.

For emergency situations ,Hooker said motorists could be exempted from the ordinance.

"When I say emergency, I don't mean calling the baby-sitter to tell her you're going to be late," Hooker said. "I'm talking about life and death circumstances."

Although normal motorists would be banned from using their cell phones while driving,under Hooker's plan ,such public entities as law enforcement,the fire department and medical emergency vehicles would be allowed to use a cell phone.

Enforcing the proposed ordinance would be difficult but Hooker said he has the support of the Basehor Police Department.

Hooker said he plans to research the ordinance further and that it will be a topic of discussion at a City Council work session on July 9. If passing the ordinance is something the City Council wishes to pursue, the issue could be placed on the agenda for the August Basehor City Council meeting, Hooker said.

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