Idaho Falls Councilman Jim Freeman wants city residents to keep their hands off their phones while driving. Freeman and his city council colleagues will soon consider an ordinance to “encourage” just that—by banning all handheld cellphone use while driving.

But, a hands-free ordinance would need a multitude of exceptions, adding to the inconsistency between local laws and making it difficult for a driver to know the ordinances of each city they drive through. A driver would not know if they can reach for their phone to read their Google Maps directions, or if doing just that could get them pulled over, unless they research the ordinances of every city they will pass through before their road trip.

Consider two of the hands-free ordinances already passed by Idaho cities Hailey and Ketchum, which are only 12 miles apart.

The hands-free cell phone ordinance in Hailey has several exceptions. For example, handheld cell phone use is permitted when a driver is parked or stopped outside of a lane of traffic. Handheld cell phone use is also permitted when a driver fears for his safety, believes a criminal act may be perpetrated, or when reporting an emergency. Plus, special permission is granted to on-duty emergency workers.

But, just 12 miles away, the city of Ketchum’s ordinance has fewer exceptions. Handheld use is only permitted when a driver fears for his safety, or when reporting an emergency.

Based on the wording of the city of Ketchum’s ordinance, emergency workers would not be permitted a special exception. Thus, an emergency worker traveling from Hailey through Ketchum could be pulled over for hand-held cell phone use.

So, this type of city ordinance hinders emergency workers from doing their duty. It is also entirely inefficient for policemen patrolling for handheld phone use.

With multiple ordinances with multiple exceptions across multiple cities in Idaho, drivers will have to research every city that they may drive through. Otherwise, they may not know if they are even allowed to reach for their phone and look at their Google Maps directions in a particular city.

This need for extensive research before a road trip indicates that this type of ordinance is also entirely inefficient for Idaho drivers.

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