BLACKFOOT — The Blackfoot City Council has banned texting and driving within the city limits. The council unanimously approved the ordinance and waived all readings at their meeting Tuesday. The ordinance goes into effect immediately.
The ordinance clearly defines texting as using an electronic wireless communications device to communicate using a text-based communication including test messages, instant messages or electronic mail.
A texting violation is classified as an infraction and is punishable by a fine of $50.
Blackfoot Police Lt. Scott Gay said the officers will primarily use the ordinance as an tool to educate drivers about the dangers of texting and driving and said a distracted driving ordinance is something many of the officers want.
Councilman Chris Jensen said he is typically opposed to passing legislation that regulates an individual's behavior, such as seatbelt and helmet laws. But he said he is very in favor of a texting and driving ordinance because an innocent third party can be hurt by someone else driving distracted.
"I'm not one who believes it's the governments job to protect us," Jensen said. "I am very much in favor of this."
Virtue said the ordinance will at least send a message to drivers who may now think twice before texting and driving.
"It's clearly a safety issue," Virtue said. "This is more to protect someone else."
The ordinance does not apply to emergency services professionals using electronic wireless communication devices while operating an authorized emergency vehicle in the course of their duties.
At the meeting the council also approved fireworks permits, an airport lease agreement and met in executive session to discuss pending litigation.