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Since the inception of the Shelby Toole County Transportation Safety Committee, the first priority has been addressing distracted driving. Formed in 2010, the committee is comprised of city and county officials, Marias Medical Center personnel, Shelby and North Toole County School officials, local law enforcement, Montana Highway Patrol, Toole County Ambulance, city and county attorneys, city judge, Montana Department of Transportation, area youth programs and concerned citizens who have been working diligently in finding resources and making changes in the community which serve to prevent injuries, save lives and reduce economic costs of motor vehicle crashes.

The number one cause of distracted driving is use of a cell phone. Nationwide statistics show 11 teens die each day as a result of texting while driving. At the same time, one out of every four traffic crashes are caused by cell phone usage. Locally, crash data shows the number of crashes due to careless/inattentive/distracted driving has increased steadily for the last 10 years. 

In 2017, the Toole County Health Department conducted a Community Health Assessment for Shelby and Toole County. Seventy-six percent of the respondents reported distracted driving as a “problem” or “big problem” and 10 percent of area high school students taking the Youth Risk Behavior Survey reported distracted driving by taking cell calls or texting while driving at least three to five days of every month. 

Most recently, SHS students developed and completed a survey in early 2020 with over 60 percent of those Sheriff Donna Whitt, Robyn Kimmet and Lorette Carter presented these findings to the Shelby City Council for consideration in adopting an ordinance in which to prohibit handheld electronic communications device usage within Shelby. 

After much Council discussion and citizen input, the Shelby City Council has put the measure on the November ballot for the community to have a voice in whether or not to ban use of handheld communication devices while driving within the City of Shelby.  This gives you the opportunity to let your voice be heard on this critical safety issues within our community.

Included below is the language that will appear on the November ballot:

AN ORDINANCE PROHIBITING THE USE OF HANDHELD DEVICES WHILE OPERATING A MOTOR VEHICLE WITHIN THE CITY OF SHELBY. 

Shall the City of Shelby enact an ordinance prohibiting the use of handheld electronic communication devices while operating a motor vehicle except under certain circumstances? 

If voters approve this ordinance, it will prohibit drivers of motor vehicles from using cell phones, two-way radios, and other electronic communications devices except under the following circumstances: Drivers using a hands-free device, drivers making an emergency call to 911, law enforcement and other first responders responding to calls for service when two-way radios are not practical, while parked and drivers using a two-way radio for work-related purposes.  

This is a Primary Stop ordinance meaning that law enforcement will have the authority to stop and issue a citation to a driver violating this ordinance without having another reason to make the stop.

The penalties for violations of this ordinance are a fine of $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense and $200 to $500 for third and subsequent offenses. A conviction under this ordinance cannot be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles for purposes of driver’s license conviction points.

If approved, this ordinance will become effective Dec. 3, 2020.  

Your input and direction are critical in addressing safety issues within our community. Please remember to vote in the November election.

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