An ordinance banning the use of hand held communications devices when driving inside of city limits was approved in Whitefish, Montana last week. Devices covered include cell phones, tablets, laptops, and navigational (GPS) systems. The law does not apply to people using their devices to report an emergency to fire, ambulance, or police and drivers are still allowed to use their devices hands free.
Visitors to Whitefish will be alerted of the ordinance when they enter town via signs posted at each entrance. An advertising campaign and awareness through verbal warnings for first time offenders is also part of the plan.
Meanwhile, the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau is preparing to launch a visitors application that will encourage people to use their smartphones while visiting; something which city officials are a bit concerned about in light of the new law.
According to information published by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, cell phone use while driving has become a major problem in the US. Taking calls is bad enough, but many drivers try to divide their attention between the road and texting or typing to Twitter or Facebook – activities that not only divert mental attention, but also require a person to physically take their eyes off the road in order to type and enter the message.
The best defense against using a cell while driving is an offensive one: Turn your phone off and put it in the back seat or, if the temptation is still too great, put it in your trunk.