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Put the Cell Phone Down While Driving – Bozeman Is Handsfree

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David McNew, Getty Images

Are you ready to go hands-free, Bozeman? The new law goes into affect Tuesday January 17th. Simply put – don’t use your cell phone while operating  your vehicle unless you don’t mind a $100 fine. The complete rundown of the new law as layed out by the Bozeman Police Department is inside.

No person shall use or have in their immediate physical possession a hand held electronic communication device while operating a motor vehicle, motorcycle, quadricycle, or a bicycle on a public highway as defined in Sect. 61- 1- 101(27), MCA, within the City limits.”

 

Per the ordinance, a hand held electronic communications device includes “wireless or cellular phones, Blackberries, smart phones, I-phones, laptop and notebook computers utilizing VOIP (voice over internet protocol) technology, navigational systems, and any other mobile communications device that uses 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”.  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.

 

Penalty: A person who violates this section shall be deemed to have committed a municipal infraction, a civil offense, and for each violation a civil penalty of $100.00 shall be imposed.

 

To help better understand the ordinance, here are some common questions we’ve been hearing from community members:

 

·         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…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.

·         In regards to the two-way radios that are allowed to be used by a licensed amateur radio operator, they must provide their FCC-issued license at the time of the stop to show they are exempt.

·         Bicycles are also included in this ordinance, but only apply to a bicycle on a public highway, not a sidewalk, trail, etc.

·         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 will be issuing warnings for the first 30 days of this ordinance.  On or after February 17th, we will begin enforcing the ordinance by issuing civil citations, if applicable.  Until then, the police department will be distributing information about this new ordinance to various businesses, groups and the community through public service announcements, posters, and on-going press releases.

 

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

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