Montana Only State without Ban on Cell Phone Use While Driving - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Montana Only State without Ban on Cell Phone Use While Driving

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MISSOULA - Montana is now the only state in the nation that doesn't ban drivers from using cell phones after a new law in South Carolina took effect this week.

Montana Highway Patrol data show cell phone usage contributed to more than 1,600 crashes between 2004 and 2013.

"It's no secret that if you're using your cell phone, your attention is being distracted from the roadway," said Sergeant Chad Dever of the Highway Patrol.

Dever said after working 13 years with MHP, he's seen his fair share of car crashes related to distracted driving.

"Driving isn't hard, but if you're not paying attention, it can be very deadly," Dever said.

In Montana, there has never been a state-led initiative to ban cell phone usage while driving, even though studies show it increasing the chances of crashing by 400-500%.
 
"A person involved in a crash using their cell phone may not admit that they were on their phone and it's very difficult to prove in a lot of cases," Dever said.

Forty-four states ban texting while driving for all ages, while a handful of others ban it for young or inexperienced drivers. Montana lawmakers have proposed legislation banning cell use while driving in recent years, but those attempts ultimately failed.

"As a long enforcement agency, we'll gladly enforce any law that keeps people safe on the roadways."

Dever said until there is a statewide ban, troopers can enforce municipal ordinances on cell use while driving, and other related laws.

"We do have laws such as careless driving that covers that," Dever said.

A Democratic state senator in Helena is planning on proposing another bill to ban cell phone use while driving during the 2015 legislative session.

There are currently about a dozen ordinances in Montana cities and counties banning cell phone use while driving.

That list includes Butte, Bozeman, Helena, Whitefish, Hamilton, Silver Bow, Great Falls and Billings.

In Missoula, the ban went into effect in December of 2012.

First-time offenders pay a $100 fine, and penalties increase to at least $350 if a driver is involved in a crash while on their phone.

Sgt. Greg Amundsen, Missoula Police Department, said, "You know, for a small town, we have relatively heavy traffic during the day and you do need to be paying attention, and I'm thinking it would certainly help reduce the number of crashes we have if people paid more attention in general while they're driving."
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