Havre's cellphone ordinance, making driving while using a cell phone a ticketable offense in city limits, is in effect now, but it it is not being fully enforced yet. A movement is afoot to repeal the ban.
Should City Council repeal the ban?
Here are two contrasting views on the subject.
For: Driving with a cellphone is not a right
I understand that certain members of the Havre City Council lead by Mr. Rick Dow want to repeal the cellphone ordinance that was recently enacted for Havre.
I can’t believe that these individuals would want to overturn an ordinance that is designed to make the driving public more safe. Numerous states and cities have already banned the use of a hand-held cellphone while driving.
The National Transportation Safety Board has said it’s a safety issue, and the NSTB is running TV ads stating that fact.
Numerous cities in Montana have also enacted ordinances banning talking or texting on a hand-held cellphone while driving, with Helena being the most recent.
Some say it is their right to talk on a cellphone and drive at the same time. It is not a right. Show me where you are given this right? It is a privilege — a very dangerous one!
I’m sorry if this ordinance infringes on your so-called “rights. ” What about stop signs and traffic lights, don’t they infringe on your rights to drive down a street unimpeded? Maybe we should do away with those laws and ordinances also.
Since the cellphone ban has been put into effect, I have noticed fewer people driving and talking now versus before the ban. But I guess some people just can’t break old bad habits.
I hope Havre City Council will use good judgment and keep the ordinance on the books. I don’t think the council wants to become the laughing stock of the state by implementing a cellphone ban while driving and then rescinding it because certain individuals feel it violates their rights.
More and more studies and statistics support the need to ban cellphone use while driving. I certainly would not want it on my conscious that because of my selfish actions, I was indirectly responsible for a fatal accident that was caused by a driver using a cellphone while driving.
(Val Murri lives in Havre.)
Against: Reducing redundancy, increasing respect for the law
All day, both the temperature and the snow have been falling. When the end of the workday arrives, you face the task of cleaning the snow and ice off of your car. It is really cold; your ears begin to go numb. Finally, your car has good visibility through all windows.
You turn on your headlights, put it in drive, and head for home. You are driving the speed limit and not swerving or driving erratically even though it is snowing. You have a good driving record and a low insurance rate to prove it. As you drive with one hand, you place the other hand over each ear to warm them back up. You repeatedly exclaim aloud, "Wow, it is cold!"
A police officer stopped at the intersection you just passed catches a glimpse of you moving your lips with a hand held to your ear. He hits the lights and pulls you over on suspicion of violating Havre City Ordinance 879. The only problem is you have done nothing wrong. You weren’t talking on a cellphone, and you were driving the speed limit. After running your name through the computer to make sure that there are no warrants out for your arrest, the officer and you share a chuckle over the misunderstanding.
As the officer drives off you notice him pick up his cellphone to answer it. Shouldn’t the officers be held to the same laws that they enforce? Once home, you review the ordinance and see that police officers and other government workers are exempt. Holding the citizens to a different set of rules than the ones that the officers follow doesn’t seem like a very good way to improve police-community relations, does it?
Thank you for taking the time to read the column favoring the repeal of the pro-repeal of the cellphone ban. The most important issue to understand is that prior to the passing of this ordinance, the police department already had the necessary tools to fight distracted driving of any type. Councilwoman Janet Trethewey identified the state law that had been used by local law enforcement agencies to hold distracted drivers accountable. Havre also has a distracted driver and reckless driver ordinance on the books. This cellphone ban is redundant and as the hypothetical story above illustrates, it will have some very negative unintended consequences if fully implemented.
Please consider the police and emergency personnel exemption in this ordinance. The ordinance exempts the respective government employees from the ordinance while on duty. Assumed in this exemption is that these employees can handle the dexterous feat of driving and talking while on the clock. When their shift ends and they change out of their uniforms do they also lose these talking and driving skills? It does not logically follow. Furthermore, it promotes a feeling of animosity toward our police department. Our police department does not wish to strain its relationship with the community, it wishes to partner with the community to reduce real crime. Additionally, it should be noted that the police department did not request this ordinance in the first place.
Last year, Havre City Council and the Ordinance Committee were on the verge of passing a new dog ordinance. After almost a year of work, the council re-examined the existing ordinances and realized that they did not need yet another ordinance; they already had the tools on the books to deal with the problem. The same scenario holds true for dealing with distracted drivers.
Other parts of the country continue to pile law upon law in a vain attempt to micro-manage the behaviors of their citizens. Havre has the opportunity to take a principled-nonpartisan stand and to repeal this redundant and unintended consequence-laden ordinance. As residents of Montana we take pride in our liberties.
Fortunately for those of us who live on the Hi-Line, we know that our fellow citizens want our law enforcement officers focusing on reducing real crimes and not trying to enforce nanny-state laws. Please encourage the Havre City Council and mayor to repeal the "cellphone ban." Personal responsibility and autonomy are part of our legacy up here. Let’s keep it that way.
(Rick Dow represents Ward 3 on the Havre City Council.)