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6/3/2014 11:25:00 AM
Williams opts out of county cell phone and driving ban
The Williams City Council opted not to enforce a Coconino County ban on driving while using cell phones. Infographic/Ryan Williams/WGCN
The Williams City Council opted not to enforce a Coconino County ban on driving while using cell phones. Infographic/Ryan Williams/WGCN

Marissa Freireich
Williams-Grand Canyon News Reporter

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - People will still be able to use cell phones while driving in Williams, after the City Council voted to opt out of the county's ban on the practice.

The Coconino County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance on April 22 that prohibits people from using cell phones for talking or texting while driving, unless they are using a hands-free device. Exemptions include drivers making emergency calls, calls made on private property and drivers who have pulled off the traveled portion of the road and put the car in park.

The county's ordinance went into effect May 22, which started a six-month warning/educational period. Violators of the ordinance can face a $100 fine or a $250 fine if they are involved in an accident while using a cell phone.

According to information from the county, 38 percent of all Department of Public Safety enforcement interventions statewide involved texting, cell phone usage or other electronic media usage between Nov. 27, 2013 and Jan. 24, 2014. This was the highest ranked category.

In addition, nationwide data showed that drivers who use cell phones are four times more likely to be in a crash and drivers who text are 23 times more likely to crash while using their phones.

The Williams City Council unanimously voted on May 22 to not follow the county's ordinance. If the council hadn't adopted its own ordinance on the matter, the county ordinance would have automatically taken effect within city limits.

City Manager Brandon Buchanan, Police Chief Herman Nixon, and city legal staff looked over the county ordinance and recommended that the city choose not to follow it.

Mayor John Moore said a cell phone ban while driving would be difficult for Williams Police Department officers to enforce.

"Having a background in law enforcement, I think we've already got too many laws and ordinances on the book," Moore added. "And this is another one that we don't need."

Nixon said one of the problems with the county ordinance is that the city courts would not be able to deal with the citations. Instead, any legal proceedings would have to take place in the county's justice court.

"But my feeling is we don't need it here," Nixon said. "I know the city of Flagstaff did not follow this. I think there's other issues with this ordinance that if you as a council decided that you wanted to do something to do with either texting or cell phone usage that we would need our attorneys to look at it and write a different ordinance."

Although the vote means Williams Police Department officers and Department of Public Safety officers would not enforce the ban within city limits, Coconino County Sheriff's officers could still enforce it in Williams.

"I don't think they'll be compelled to do it in the city limits," Nixon said. "My understanding from talking with the lieutenant is that they're not supposed to be in city, they're supposed to be out doing their job out in the county. I think that once they see that we aren't enforcing it, I think that would somewhat stop them from doing it here, but I cannot promise that."

Related Stories:
• Driving and using a cell phone OK in Williams, not in county

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, June 6, 2014
Article comment by: Bruce Bloomquist

Let's face it, some people can't walk and chew gum without walking into a lamppost. That's why defensive driving is a critical skill in this town. Between the jaywalkers, the wrong-way drivers, and the s-l-o-w driving videographers a jabbering monkey on a cell phone is an accident waiting to happen. Nevertheless, I'm glad Williams has opted out of this ridiculous ban. You can't fix stupid, but driving while distracted can still earn you a ticket.

Posted: Thursday, June 5, 2014
Article comment by: Misty Circle

If cell phone usage while driving was banned, when and how would the mayor conduct his business? He is always on his phone likely planning what he will ruin next while driving. Disgusting.

Posted: Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Article comment by: harbor snow

yeah-people in this town drive down the street wrong way-lets make this legal too.williams is a tourist trap.roll up your sidewalks come September-go to bed and leave-fire all the low income people who try to survive here.this is the most haefull town I have lived grubbers.cant even go to church unless you got money for the tithe.

Posted: Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Article comment by: Gwen Tuttle

Using a cell phone while driving an automobile is a dangerous distraction, hands free or not, that often leads to accidents, injuries or death. Lives are changed or ruined in the blink of an eye. And our city council ignores this? Huh?

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