Some Missoulians still using mobile devices while driving


MISSOULA, Mont. - Nearly a year and a half after Missoula's cellphone ban went into effect, police say they're surprised by the number of tickets they're handing out. And they've got the numbers to back it up.

Signs greet drivers at nearly every entrance to Missoula, reminding them that using a mobile device while driving is prohibited, but it doesn't mean everyone's abiding.

"Some people continue to use their devices while driving," said Missoula Police Department Public Information Officer Travis Welsh.

The ban on using a mobile device while driving went into effect in February 2013, and by the end of that first year 1,462 tickets had been handed out.

"When officers in the police department observe those violations they are going to stop and they will issue citations," Welsh said.

The number of second or subsequent offenders was much lower than the 1,462 given out the first time. Police ticketed only nine repeat offenders. Another 38 people were cited for texting while driving and three people for getting into crashes while using a mobile device.

NBC Montana asked some Missoulians whether the ban has forced them to change their habits. Reactions were mixed and one woman admitted to still using her phone while she's behind the wheel.

"I do text and drive. I talk on my phone more and drive though. I do it on speaker phone if that makes it any better," she said.

It shows that not everyone is complying. So far in 2014, 270 people have been cited for driving and using a mobile device and nine have received second or subsequent tickets.

While there's no telling what the numbers for the second full year of enforcement will be, Welsh hopes they drop.

"I think the majority of people probably realize the risks involved, the dangers of using that device while they're driving."

In the next couple of months Missoula's police chief and communications director will meet to discuss more outreach plans to remind people to not use their phones while driving.

The initial campaign featured billboards as well as ads on city buses.