Local cellphone ban studied

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A ban on using cellphones while driving is under consideration for Kalispell.

At a work session Monday, Kalispell City Council members will briefly discuss whether they’re interested in exploring an ordinance to ban drivers in the city limits from using hand-held electronic devices such as cell phones.

Kalispell is the only city in the Flathead Valley and one of the last major cities in Montana without such an ordinance.

It will be only a very preliminary and likely brief discussion, City Manager Doug Russell said of the agenda item.

“We had a request from one of the council members to have the discussion and see if this is something the council wants to pursue further,” he said.

“We’re not proposing anything at this time. We’re just putting it on the work session agenda to see where it goes from there.”

And that could be nowhere.

But council member Jim Atkinson said he at least wants to have the discussion.

Atkinson said he has heard from several people about what other communities are doing to try to cut down on distracted driving problems.

“I’m not even sure the council wants to explore this, but some of my constituents do and it’s time to at least have that discussion,” he said.

Federal highway safety officials have recommended states adopt such bans to cut down on inattentive driving. Several dozen states already have done so.

Montana is not one of them. Absent any action by the Legislature, a number of cities over the last three years,  including Missoula, Billings, Helena, Bozeman and Butte, have enacted local hand-held electronic device bans that apply within their jurisdictions.

Whitefish passed a hand-held device ban for drivers last fall. Columbia Falls passed one this summer. So did Hamilton and Great Falls.

Reporter Tom Lotshaw may be reached at 758-4483 or by email at tlotshaw@dailyinterlake.com.

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