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Anchorage Assembly postpones decision on cellphones while driving in school zones

The Anchorage Assembly put off a decision Tuesday night on whether to ban handheld cellphone use in school zones.

Assembly members became entangled in the definition of a school zone in an ordinance proposed by former Assemblyman Eric Croft and current Assemblyman John Weddleton. The current proposal would create a $500 ticket for using a handheld cellphone or mobile device while driving on school property and in “school zones with signage,” with exceptions for when the vehicle is stopped, the driver is using a hands-free device, or the phone is being used to dial 911 to make an emergency call.

Some Assembly members questioned whether the ban should apply to larger arterials adjacent to schools, which technically fall in school zones.

State and local law prohibits drivers from texting or using a screen device while the vehicle is in motion. That includes viewing social media and watching videos.

The law does not ban drivers from dialing and holding a cellphone while speaking, and using it for navigation.

The Assembly is expected to continue debate on the measure at its May 21 meeting.

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