The great cell phone debate is over. It is no longer a question of whether you can drive while holding and talking into your cell phone. Now the question on everyone’s mind is when the law will officially take effect.
On Monday, Feb. 5, the City Council passed the bill, F/S O-06-57 (PDF), amending section 8-2-1-24 ROA 1994 sponsored by Councilors Ken Sanchez and Isaac “Ike” Benton, making it illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while driving. The ordinance does not take away the option to use a phone while driving. It only requires drivers to use the safer hands-free method to talk, the Councilors said.
The Mayor signed the bill February 7 and the law will take affect five days after it is published in the Albuquerque Journal—the publication should happen on February 11. However, for the first 60 days after the law takes effect, the mayor has instructed police officers to issue warnings instead of citations.
After the 60 days pass drivers will be issued a ticket for:
- $100 for the first offense
- $200 for subsequent offenses
They can either choose to pay the fine or fight the citation in court.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is a “hands-free” device?
A hands-free device is any sort of earpiece that allows you to talk without physically holding the phone or having the phone near your ear. Examples of hands-free devices are Bluetooth wireless ear pieces, corded ear pieces and speaker phones that are not being held while in use. If you are holding the cell phone while the vehicle is in motion, you can be cited.
2. Does text-messaging count as using the cell phone?
Yes, the law prohibits sending or receiving text messages.
3. Am I allowed to dial my phone while driving?
Not if you need to use your hands to dial the phone. If you can dial using voice commands, then you may place a call. Otherwise, you are only allowed to receive calls or end calls using your hands.
4. Where does this law apply?
The law is applicable everywhere within the city limits. This includes residential streets, main thoroughfares, and interstate highways, such as Interstate 25 and Interstate 40.
5. Are there any exceptions?
Yes, if the phone call is for an emergency situation and the user is talking to an emergency response operator such as a hospital, a physician’s office or a health clinic, an ambulance company, such as a fire department; or a police department.
6. How did my Councilor vote on this amendment?
Councilors Benton, Sanchez, Cadigan, O’Malley and Heinrich voted for the law.
Councilors Winter, Mayer, Loy and Harris opposed the law.