The Bellevue City Council will hold a public hearing on Monday, Jan. 27, to take public comments on a proposed ordinance to ban the use of handheld electronic devices while driving within city limits. Bellevue would fall in line with Blaine County, Hailey and Ketchum, all of which have similar ordinances against using cellphones while driving.
According to Land Use Planner Ashley Dyer, the ordinance was proposed by the Bellevue Marshal’s Office, which wanted city policy to align with that of the county and neighboring Hailey.
“Distracted driving has become an issue for people,” Deputy Marshal Mynde Heil said.
The ordinance would prohibit the use of handheld mobile electronic devices while driving, except under certain conditions, and include an infraction fine of $100.
Blaine County, Hailey and Ketchum all have $100 infraction fines as well.
Hailey’s cellphone ordinance was contested in court last year following a traffic stop that led to a charge of driving without privileges. In that case, local attorney Doug Nelson argued that the city was overreaching in creating an ordinance stricter than state law. State law only prohibits texting while driving, not speaking directly on a cellphone. However, a 5th District judge ruled that Hailey’s cellphone ordinance is not in conflict with state law, reversing a decision made by a 5th District magistrate judge in October 2018.
Nelson has since removed himself as the lead attorney on the case, but the defendant’s current attorney, Peggy Boggs, said the case may still go to an appeals court to argue against the judge’s ruling.
In addition, another criminal case hinges on Hailey’s cellphone ordinance. In the second case, a Hailey resident was pulled over after an officer allegedly saw him talking on his cellphone while driving. The defendant is arguing that he was not talking on his cellphone but was listening to music on the cellphone, which was on his lap. The traffic stop resulted in felony charges after marijuana and paraphernalia were found in the vehicle.
Written comments on Bellevue’s cellphone ordinance proposal may be emailed to Community Development Director Diane Shay at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Jan. 27 council meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at Bellevue City Hall.