Sitka’s “Safe Streets” Ordinance went into effect yesterday (5-26-16), which prohibits hands-on use of cellphones while driving. Sitka Police Lt. Lance Ewers, Planning & Community Development Director Maegan Bosak, and Doug Osborne with Sitka Community Hospital discuss how the new law will be enforced. The Assembly approved the ordinance at the end of April (4-26-16).
For the next 30 days, the Sitka Police Department will be leading an education campaign, reminding complicit drivers how the law works.
- Motorists may not use a hand-held cellphone while operating a vehicle – whether the vehicle is in motion or stopped at a traffic light. This includes, but is not limited to, answering or making phone calls, engaging in phone conversations, and reading or responding to emails, instant messages, and text messages.
- If a resident need to use their phones, they must pull to the side of the road or park in another safe location that is out of traffic.
The ordinance does not apply to hands-free electronic devices like Bluetooth. However, in an e-mail, Mayor Mim McConnell reminded citizens that voiceless technology may be just as distracting. She cited language by the National Safety Council, stating that hands-free modes offer “no safety benefit” because the brain must toggle between two tasks.
With the ordinance in effect, the police will begin issuing fines for $25 and $50 for every subsequent offense. Offenders can donate their fine to Public Safety Fund.