Sgt. Bryan Slavik with the Great Falls Police Department says people can still be seen on a regular basis using their cell phones while driving. He adds, "It's still a problem. It still causes accidents". Yet since the city of Great Falls adopted this ordinance banning the use of cell phones while driving last year, Slavik believes the situation has improved. He says on average they issue 5-10 citations every month.
That number might be higher if it wasn't for the language of the ordinance. Slavik explains, "the way the city ordinance is written is an officer has to witness the violation in order to issue a citation. Of course when people see police officers cell phones end up in the lap".
City ordinance prohibits holding cell phones to make phone calls as well as to send text messages. Although both are consider distracted driving and dangerous, many agree texting while driving is a worse offense because it takes your eyes off the road more than talking.
Violators of the cell phone ordinance have to deal with city court and fines from $100 up to $500. Slavik says these high fines reduce the number of repeat offenders.
Unlike a speeding ticket, violating the cell phone ban does not show up on your driving record. Slavik says, "the great thing about the ticket is it's a city ordinance violation, so it doesn't go on your drivers license or effect insurance, but it certainly will effect your pocket book".
The ban doesn't mean you can't use your cell phone while driving. Slavik suggests using hands-free devices like blue tooth technology if you must make a phone call while driving. However, many experts say it can wait when it comes to talking on a cell or texting. Distracted driving is the number one cause of accidents. Slavik says, "the danger is you become distracted for one moment and lights change, people come through the intersection, children are at play".