The City and Borough of Juneau and other municipalities across the state may soon have the power to ban all forms of cell phone use when drivers are on school property or in school zones.
The Senate Community and Regional Affairs committee took up SB123 for the second time Thursday afternoon and passed the bill unanimously after brief testimony, all of which was in favor.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, enables cities to pass ordinances that prohibit cell phone use on school property and in school zones.
“Juneau ought to do it, but it’s up to the Assembly,” said Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau. “Juneau has enough elementary, middle and high schools to be able to decide on this.”
Ordinances on the issue would be subject to the same public processes as other ordinances, Egan said.
The idea for this legislation began with a volunteer cross walk guard in Anchorage who grew tired of seeing parents and other drivers routinely use their phones while near large groups of children.
“It’s gotten to the point for safety reasons and for the safety of kids that we need drivers and parents to put their cell phones away,” said David White, the volunteer who first tried to accomplish the ban at the city level.
He estimated that where he works between a quarter and 30 percent of drivers are on their phones while dropping off or picking up children.
“In school zones — areas with hundreds of pedestrians and bicyclists on a daily basis — when you mix that with a distractive driver it’s too great a potential for an accident to happen,” Ed Graff, the superintendent at the Anchorage School District, told the committee members via a call-in testimony.
The bill has no fiscal note attached, and it now awaits a vote of the full Senate.
• Contact reporter Matt Woolbright at firstname.lastname@example.org.