Cd'A won't rule on cell phones, texting

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COEUR d'ALENE - Last year's bark didn't follow with a bite.

The city of Coeur d'Alene won't implement a citywide ordinance banning cell phones or texting while driving, preferring to give the Legislature another crack at making it a state rule next year.

Meantime, the state's inattentive driving statute and the city's careless driving ordinance give law enforcement officers enough room to cite drivers who can't keep their eyes on the road because of their cell phones.

"I'm really disappointed," said Steve Bell, a Coeur d'Alene citizen who approached the city about implementing its own cell phone rule last year on grounds that electronics and driving needed to specifically be addressed in the rule book. "I wish our law enforcement would get more behind this."

The city's General Service Committee said Monday it would be a difficult rule to enforce just at the city level, as it would be confusing for drivers driving through Coeur d'Alene from neighborhood towns.

It could be difficult for officers to determine if the drivers are texting in the first place or whether they are just looking away from the road, Police Capt. Steve Childers said.

And would GPS directional devices be included too?

"It's there" already, said Wes Somerton, city attorney, on a law that covers citing distracted drivers, regardless of the source. "We don't need to recreate the wheel."

Also a deterrent to a new rule, the city would have had to post signs of the rule at most every entrance into the city. And the effectiveness in states that have implemented such rules is difficult to track.

"Every time I turn around I think, how do we keep up with this?" said Mike Kennedy, GSC chairman and city councilman. "I've been torn on this."

The GSC is a subcommittee of the City Council that recommends stances for the council to consider

Last year, GSC said it would recommend the city adopt its own rule on cell phones and driving if the Legislature didn't enact one this year. The Legislature didn't, and Bell came back to the committee Monday to see if it still intended to pursue its own rule.

The committee instead recommended giving the state another chance next year, saying it will draft letters of support to various entities and associations to encourage legislators take action during the 2012 session.

Inattentive driving citations are misdemeanor offenses in Coeur d'Alene, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. Police nabbed 109 inattentive drivers in 2010, and cited 84 for careless driving.

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