Hang up, or pay up in two Delaware cities in 2010
Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
Starting New Year's Day, drivers in Delaware will have to keep the cell phones off their ears while driving in two cities or risk paying a fine.
Since November 1, police officers in Elsmere have issued nearly 200 warnings for drivers who use their cell phone without being "hands free". Two months of warnings will turn into real citations with a $50 fine starting January 1, 2010.
"We've been averaging five to ten warnings a day," Lt. Christoper Workman, Elsmere Police Department supervisor, said.
The ordinance prohibits anyone from talking on a cell phone without using a hands free device, or texting, while driving a vehicle or riding a bicycle.
"None of the warnings were for bicycle riders," Workman said.
Workman says on January 1 Councilman Steven Burg, who introduced the legislation, will be riding with police officers who will be on the lookout for drivers who violate the "no talking or texting while driving" rule.
Burg says he proposed the ordinance after a close call one evening during one of his summertime walks around his district, when he says a driver nearly ran a red light.
"The reason she wasn't paying attention, she was texting," Steven Burg, 2nd District Councilman in Elsmere, said. "I thought I was lucky, but the next person might not be so lucky. I said something has to be done."
Elsmere is the first small town in Delaware to enforce such an ordinance. Wilmington becomes the first major city in the state to do the same when a similar ordinance goes into effect, also on New Year's Day.
In both cities the violation will be treated as a primary offense, meaning police officers don't need any other reason to pull you over.
State legislation is pending that would require drivers to go "hands-free" when driving throughout Delaware. The legislature reconvenes January 12.
" Elsmere may be a small town, but we need to be the safest town," Burg said. "I would love to see the state do it statewide. Maybe now with Wilmington doing it and us doing it, maybe the state will jump on and do the entire state."