City passes employee cell phone policy more strict than state guidelines

Stock photo | St. George News


CEDAR CITY — Adding a new cell phone use policy to the 2016 city policy handbook passed in a 4 to 1 vote at Wednesday night’s City Council meeting. The new standards will require all city employees to use hands-free devices while behind the wheel from now on.

The policy change was implemented based on the recommendations of Utah Risk Management Mutual Association (URMA), which insures the city in cases where a claim filed against them reaches a specific dollar amount.

The new change will save the city $3,000 a year in premium costs, Human Resources and Risk Management administrator Natasha Hirschi said.

Despite the savings, Councilman Fred Rowley voted against the new policy. He said he believed there was a greater potential for accidents to occur as a result of the policy change than there would be without it.

“I’ve read a couple of studies,” Rowley said. “Sometimes the texting laws will cause more accidents because you start with holding your phone down here instead of keeping your hands up.”

Information shared by Hirschi in a December city employee safety meeting told a different story, Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson said.

The meeting was centered around a video produced by Coastal and provided to the city through URMA, “Driven to Distraction,” Hirschi said.   

According to the video, a driver makes about 400 observations every two miles while on the road. Based on those observations, the video stated that 40 different decisions are made; yielding one mistake per 40 decisions.

“Studies have proven that cell phones affect you the same way a couple of shots of hard liquor do,” the video reported, adding that those statistics were true whether or not the device is hands-free.

The new policy is set to a stricter standard than the state requires, Hirschi said, but is designed to create a safe driving procedure for all employees.

State law on distracted driving

Utah law passed in 2014 provides that drivers may do the following while their vehicles are in motion:

  • Answer calls and talk
  • Use hands-free devices for phones
  • Use a GPS or navigation application on a phone if needed
  • Report emergencies, road hazards, criminal activity

However drivers may not do the following while their vehicles are in motion:

  • Compose, read, or send a text message, email, or instant message
  • Enter a phone number
  • Access or surf the Internet
  • View or record images and video
  • Manipulate applications on the phone or wireless handheld device

Cedar City cell phone policy

The new Cedar City personnel cell phone policy states that while driving a city vehicle or while driving on city business, employees may:

  • Talk on their phone using a hands-free device
  • View GPS or navigation coordinates
  • Use voice commands
  • Use the phone during a medical, fire or police emergency, or
  • Report a safety hazard or criminal activity

While driving a city vehicle or while driving on city business, employees may not:

  • Send, write or read text messages, instant messages or emails
  • Dial a phone number; unless stopped
  • View or record a video, or
  • Enter data into a handheld device

Cedar City Manager Rick Holman said that the city is committed to helping ensure employees who require cell phone availability at all times are equipped with hands-free devices.

“It may take a year or two to complete that,” Holman said, adding that hands-free devices can only be purchased as each department’s budget would allow.

In other news:

  • Representatives from Canyon Creek Women’s Crisis Center addressed the City Council to thank members for their continued support; inform them about the “Lethality Assessment Program,” an intervention program to help abused women; and to request nearly $1,000 in community center usage fees be waived.
    The space, that previously was free of cost, is used to provide free self defense classes to women who are participants in Canyon Creek programs, they said. The program’s budget has already been established for this year and there are no funds available to cover the expense.   

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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