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Vegas cites 81 for cell phone violations

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By David Giuliani

Those who are driving while talking on handheld cell phones are breaking city law. Last year, the Police Department issued scores of tickets for such violations.

In 2008, Las Vegas police officers issued 81 citations for cell phone offenses and 34 warnings, according to department statistics.

Police Capt. Eugene Garcia said the department could probably ticket greater numbers of drivers. “We’re working at it,” he said.

In October 2007, the city enacted the cell-phone ban, with hands-free phones exempted. The penalty for the first violation is $100; each subsequent one is $200.

Local law enforcement and emergency services acting within the scope of their duties are exempted from the ordinance.

All but one member of the council at the time supported the ordinance, with members saying that it was dangerous for drivers to talk on their phones. Police Chief Gary Gold also strongly pushed the law.

However, then-Councilman Eugene Romero, who voted against the ban, said residents should be educated first before the council were to enact an ordinance.

Councilman Andrew Feldman, who wasn’t on the council at the time but is a big supporter of the cell-phone ban, said he has been conducting an informal survey on whether motorists are complying with the ordinance.

Feldman said that when he stops at an intersection, he has been looking around to see who is talking on cell phones. In eight of 10 instances, at least one driver is on a phone and often more than one, he said.

Feldman said he uses an earpiece for his cell phone when he is driving.

“Many studies have shown that there is a 40 percent greater risk of getting into an accident if you’re talking on a cell phone. You should be paying attention when you’re driving,” he said.

Councilman Morris Madrid said as the word gets out, more and more people will follow the city ordinance.

“A citation has to happen to someone close to you for you to start paying attention (to the ordinance),” he said.