June 16, 2010
Valley Center city council members have given initial approval to a new ordinance banning all cell phone use behind the wheel. The ordinance prohibits texting and talking on the phone while driving. It also bans drivers from talking on the phone using hands-free devices.
"What did we do before we had cell phones? You needed to make a phone call, you pull into a gas station and use a pay phone," said Valley Center City Council Member Lou Cicirello.
The days of constantly using a pay phone may not be back, but pulling over to use the phone could soon become law in Valley Center. Residents say it would change what has become a way of life for many people living in the area.
"You come to a stop sign and everybody's on the phone it seems like," said Valley Center resident Donna Kinkaid.
But under the ordinance, talking behind the wheel would be illegal in Valley Center, as the state has already banned texting and driving. The Valley Center ordinance also makes the violation a primary offense, meaning law enforcement could pull someone over solely for talking on the phone while behind the wheel.
"I actually have a couple of friends that have gotten in wrecks because of it. So I mean if they [city council members] do ban it, it's probably the smartest thing they can do," said Valley Center resident Jason Maris.
But banning even hands-free devices, is getting mixed reviews.
"I'd say that's going a little overboard," said Maris.
Although Valley Center may be considered a small town, it is stepping ahead of the rest of the state in moving forward to ban all cell phone use behind the wheel.
"We decided that enough is enough and we might as well break ground and see what happens," said Cicirello.
Supporters of the ordinance say statistics show it doesn't matter if a phone conversation is hands-free or hands-on, it's still a distraction and could cause an accident.
"If it effects just you, I don't think it should be a law. But if what you're doing is effecting other people, then it should be [a law]," said Cicirello.
That's something many Valley Center residents say they do agree with, regardless of whether they support their hometown stepping forward for a stricter law.
"Someone has to be the first in anything," said Kinkaid.
"You're not only helping yourself, but helping everyone else out there too," said Maris.
The ordinance received initial approval at Tuesday's meeting, with a vote of 5-2. It could receive final approval at the next council meeting.