Cell-phone ban bugs some Vail Valley drivers | VailDaily.com

Cell-phone ban bugs some Vail Valley drivers

Chris Outcalt
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado ” Danni Drapeau doesn’t think the state needs a law to keep people off their cell phones while driving. She doesn’t think we need seat belt law, either.

“People do drive like idiots, but I don’t think we need another law,” said Drapeau, who lives in Vail.

The state Legislature is considering a bill that would ban talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving.

Rep. Claire Levy, a Democrat from Boulder, introduced the bill last month that would make talking on a hand-held phone and driving punishable by a $50 ticket for the first offense and $100 for an subsequent offense.

Eagle County Rep. Christine Scanlan plans to support the bill.

“There’s been a lot testimony from people that suffered tragedies because of inattentive drivers and how distracting talking on a cell phone is ” I think that’s pretty indisputable,” said Scanlan, a Democrat.

Although the bill still has to be approved by the state House and Senate before becoming a law, it has a lot of support from both parties, Scanlan said.

Scanlan doesn’t allow her teenagers to talk on the phone while driving and said she bought a Bluetooth to use in the car.

“I’ve gotta get into the habit,” she said.

Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger is in favor of making driving while talking on a cell phone against the law.

“Although many accidents are officially classified as careless driving, it has a lot to do with distracted drivers ” I think cell phones are a leading cause of distracted drivers,” Henninger said. “Anything we can do to reduce the potential for distracted drivers is a good thing.”

Similar laws are on the books in California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Utah and Washington. Some states have laws that allow individual cities and towns to decide whether to ban cell phone use while driving.

Vail resident Alanna Waters doesn’t like the idea.

“Putting on makeup or eating is dangerous, why is the cell phone any worse?” Waters said.

Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy favors the bill, but thinks an important distinction will be whether talking on a cell phone while driving would be a primary or secondary traffic offense.

Police officers can pull someone over for violating a primary offense. A secondary offense can’t be the reason an officer makes a traffic stop. Not wearing a seat belt is a secondary offense and can’t be the reason a driver is stopped on a state or interstate highway. Drivers can be stopped for not wearing a seat belt on local roads.

“It’ll be a big distinction,” said Sheriff’s office spokeswoman Shannon Cordingly. “To have the seat belt a secondary and the cell phone become a primary ” I don’t see that happening.”

Who will get the revenue from the tickets is another question in the mind of the Eagle County Sheriff.

“If it was a primary offense it would be a strain on our resources,” Cordingly said. “It would be nice for the agencies to get a portion of the money back.”

Anita Denboske, president of the cell phone company Active Communications, thinks a ban on text messaging needs to be part of any law that restricts cell phone use while driving.

“I’m not opposed to it, but I don’t know if we need a law,” she said. “People need to pay attention, period.”

There are plenty of other things that are just as distracting as talking on a cell phone while driving, Denboske said.

“There are a lot of things we shouldn’t do while driving, but that’s common sense,” she said. “I don’t know if you can legislate common sense.”

Dan Carlsen, who lives in Vail, doesn’t think it makes sense to punish someone for talking on a cell phone while driving unless it leads to an accident.

“I think there’s a responsibility factor,” he said.

Mark Brownstein lives in New York state ” where driving and talking on the phone is banned ” and said he’s noticed fewer accident since it became a law.

“Even talking on a hands-free phone is just as dangerous,” Brownstein said.

Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or coutcalt@vaildaily.com.

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