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Thursday, February 8, 2007
Chávez Signs Ban on Cell Phones
Cell phone ordinance (PDF file)
By Jim Ludwick
Journal Staff Writer
Mayor Martin Chávez signed legislation Wednesday banning the use of a hand-held cell phone while driving a vehicle.
Chávez signed the measure on live television during his call-in program on GOV-TV almost immediately after he received the paperwork from the City Council, which had approved the ban 5-4.
He said police will give warnings for 60 days before issuing citations.
The fine will be $100 for a first offense and $200 for subsequent violations.
The law allows the use of a cell phone with a hands-free device.
It exempts public safety officers from the ban, but Chávez said he disagrees with that exemption. He said city officers will be ordered to use a hands-free device, just like everyone else.
Chávez said the ban was "one of the most passionate issues that I've ever had to address as mayor."
He said there are legitimate arguments on both sides, and research is not clear-cut. "If I am going to err, I will err on the side of public safety," he said.
"It will take some time for this to settle in for people to get used to the technology," Chávez said. "Bear with us. ... Give it time to work."
Councilor Ken Sanchez, a sponsor of the legislation, said it will make streets safer.
"I know it was a very difficult decision for him, but I am pleased by the decision," Sanchez said.
Councilor Brad Winter said it won't improve safety.
"We keep getting government intrusion, more laws," Winter said. "I really feel for police officers. This gives them one more thing to do."
Councilor Michael Cadigan said Chávez made a good choice.
"I'm sure he had mixed feelings about it. I had mixed feelings. In the end, it's probably the right thing to put it into law," Cadigan said.
The law will take effect five days after it is officially published. The city clerk could determine today when that will happen.