At the Town Council meeting held Oct. 9, the Shepherdstown Council adopted an ordinance to establish the prohibited use of an electronic communications device, driving without handheld features.
The ordinance prohibits the use of a cell telephone or other communications device while driving. The ordinance prohibits driving while talking on a handheld device, texting, viewing data, playing games or other actions taken using one's hands.
The ordinance mirrors a recent statewide law on the same issue; however, according to Police Chief David Ransom, the council had to adopt an ordinance so that the offense could be labeled as a municipal offense.
The ordinance explains the devices which fall under the term "electronic communication device" to include not only a cell phone, but a personal digital assistant, electronic device with mobile data access, laptop computer, pager, broadband personal communication device, 2-2ay messaging device, electronic game or portable computing device.
The ordinance indicates that exemptions are voice radios, mobile radios, land mobile radios, commercial mobile radios or two way radios with the capability to transmit and receive voice transmissions utilizing a push to talk or press to transmit function or other voice radios used by law enforcement officers, emergency services providers, employees or agents of public safety organizations, first responders, Amateur Radio Operators licensed by the Federal Communications Commission or school bus drivers.
Other exemptions to the ordinance include those using a device to report to appropriate authorities a fire, traffic accident, serious road hazard or medical or hazardous materials emergency.
Ransom explained that the ordinance establishes texting while driving as a primary offense beginning Nov. 1, 2012. The act is already labeled a primary offense by State Code. While talking on a cell phone without hands-free capability is labeled as a secondary offense, the ordinance establishes the change to a primary offense beginning July 1, 2013.
Conviction of these offenses come with a fine of $100 for the first office; $200 for the second and $300 for subsequent offenses.
Ransom said, "This ordinances will be strictly enforced." He went on to say, "It is obvious when people are texting and driving. You can see it plainly."