Wyoming town’s cell-phone ban hits a nerve

SUNDAY, OCT. 25, 2009

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Cheyenne City Councilman Jim Brown, thinking it was time his city joined the movement to keep drivers from being distracted by their handheld cell phones, steered an ordinance banning the practice into law last month.

Now, he’s getting an earful from outraged Wyomingites.

“We have the right to bear a cell phone,” said M. Lee Hasenauer, 49, who collected more than 3,500 signatures in support of his petition against the ordinance.

If the city clerk validates at least 2,800 of them, officials must either repeal the ordinance or put it to a public vote.

If the residents’ effort pays off, Cheyenne would become the first city to enact, then retract such a law, said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Seven states, as well as a dozen cities, have banned driving while talking on a handheld cell phone; 18 states and the District of Columbia have prohibited texting while driving as well.

In Cheyenne – where motorists last year acknowledged they were using cell phones in 50 out of 2,900 crashes – the new ordinance bans texting or otherwise using a handheld phone, although using a headset is acceptable. The first offense carries a $125 fine.

City Councilman Don Pierson, who argued against the ordinance, felt police shouldn’t be permitted to stop a driver for a behavior that hadn’t caused a traffic problem.

“If I’m driving down the road, minding my own business and talking on my cell phone, leave me alone,” said Pierson.


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