Montana State University

Enforcement of cell phone ban while driving begins Feb. 17

February 17, 2012 -- The following information has been provided by the City of Bozeman:

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As of Friday, Feb. 17, the Bozeman City Police are enforcing the Bozeman Municipal Code prohibiting a driver from using or having in their immediate physical possession a hand-held electronic communication device while operating a motor vehicle, motorcycle, quadricycle, or a bicycle on a public street or highway within the city limits of Bozeman. The fine is $100.

Since January 17, the Bozeman Police Department has stopped and warned 70 drivers for violating this ordinance.

Hand-held electronic communications device includes "wireless or cellular phones, laptop and notebook computers utilizing VOIP (voice over internet protocol) technology, navigational systems, and any other mobile communications device that permits wireless communications to and from the user of the device." Immediate physical possession means "touching the hand-held electronic communications device or physically holding the device in one's hand or up to one's ear." Simply having the electronic communications device on one's person or in a motor vehicle does not constitute immediate physical possession.

Exceptions:

1. This section shall not apply to any person reporting a health, fire, safety, or police emergency.

2. This section shall not apply to governmental fire agencies, ambulance services, law enforcement agencies, emergency responders, or any person operating an Authorized Emergency Vehicle as defined in Section 61- 8- 102(2)(a), MCA while in the performance and scope of their work related duties.

3. This section shall not apply to passengers in a motor vehicle, or persons using a hand held electronic communications device while maintaining a motor vehicle in a stationary position, not in gear, while in a parking lane or space out of moving traffic lanes.

4. This section shall not apply to persons using a hands free device. A "hands free device" shall mean an electronic communication device that has an internal feature or function, or that is equipped with an attachment or addition, by which a user engages the device and by which the continual or repeated use of either hand is not required to activate, deactivate, initiate, or maintain a function of the device. A hands free device does not include a device where touching the device is necessary to dial a phone number or enter text. Use of a device's internal speaker alone does not constitute a hands free device.

5. This section does not apply to drivers using two-way radios while in the performance and scope of their work-related duties.

6. This section shall not apply to drivers holding a valid amateur radio operator license issued by the Federal Communications Commission while using a two-way radio.

7. This section shall not apply to a driver operating a motor vehicle or motorcycle on all portions of Interstate 90 considered controlled access including the entirety of the exit and entrance ramps.

To help better understand the ordinance, here are some common questions:

  • Using the internal speaker on a phone is not considered hands-free and is a violation of this ordinance. Bottom line is that if someone wants to use a cell phone while driving, they must use a hands-free device such as a Bluetooth ear piece or visor/dash device.
  • Drivers cannot use their hand-held cellular phone or above-listed communication device while stopped at a stop light, railroad crossing, etc. The ordinance specifically states the vehicle must be in a stationary position, not in gear, while in a parking lane or space out of moving traffic lanes.
  • Bicycles are also included in this ordinance, as bicycles must obey the same rules of the road as a motor vehicle.
  • This ordinance only applies to the driver or a vehicle or bicycle, not the passengers.
  • I-pods, MP3 players, or any other electronic device that doesn't use short-wave analog or digital radio transmissions between the device and a transmitter to permit wireless communications to and from the user of the device do not fall under this ordinance and are allowed to be used.
  • Violation of this ordinance is a civil infraction and neither the violation nor any conviction points will go on a driver's record.
  • All violators of this ordinance will have the options of either appearing in Bozeman Municipal Court at the Law and Justice Center, 615 South 16th in Bozeman to plead not guilty to the citation; pay their fine at the court; or mail their fine to the court. If a violator fails to complete any of the three options after receiving a citation, the municipal court may issue a judgment against the violator and send them to collections.

The Bozeman Police Department wants to remind drivers that cell phones are one of the many distractions some drivers focus on while driving. Distracted driving in general is extremely unsafe and increases a driver's risk of getting into a crash.

The Bozeman Police Department encourages all drivers to keep their hands on the wheel, eyes on the road and mind on driving safely.