City starts cell phone enforcement

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By David Giuliani

A couple of months ago, the City Council enacted a ban on using cell phones while driving, but city police didn’t start enforcing it until late last week.

That’s because Chief Gary Gold wanted to pass the ban as part of a uniform traffic ordinance, which the council passed at its meeting last week.

Gold said officers would start issuing verbal warnings right away and begin issuing actual citations Feb. 1. He said the Police Department planned to heavily advertise the new ordinance, so drivers are aware of it.

Councilwoman Diane Moore asked if the city would post signs at its entrances warning motorists of the local cell phone ban, noting that Santa Fe has done so.

Gold agreed with the idea, but he said he would have to consult with City Manager John Avila about getting the money for the signs. He said officers would have the discretion on how to handle violations by out-of-town drivers.

The city ordinance allows people to use hands-free cell phones, and police officers are allowed to use cell phones when it’s absolutely necessary.

Moore wondered if the city would purchase hands-free devices for city employees, so they can keep talking while they are driving.

Gold said he didn’t believe it was a city obligation to buy hands-free cell phones because all employees need to do is pull over if they choose to talk. He said employees who want such devices should pay for them out of their own pockets.