The Soldotna City Council last week approved an ordinance to strengthen city code on distracted driving. The new law is stricter than the state’s prohibition on texting while driving, but really should be common sense for anyone operating a motor vehicle.
Under Soldotna’s new law, drivers are prohibited from using a smart phone or other electronic screen device for anything other than a voice call. While the state’s law only pertains to texting, Soldotna’s law covers things like searching for music, checking a website or scrolling through social media while driving.
According to Soldotna Police Chief Peter Mlynarik, the impetus for the change came when a driver was pulled over for distracted driving, but was searching for music rather than texting, and was able to fight the ticket.
Violation of Soldotna’s new law is a minor offense, but we all know that distracted driving can be a major problem. Alaska’s roads require a driver’s full attention at all times — whether is be the heavy traffic of summer, the ice, snow and darkness of winter, or the chance of wildlife crossing the road at any time.
In fact, there are many states where distracted driving laws go even further, and require that any use of a cell phone be hands-free — in other words, don’t even touch your phone once you get in the vehicle.
We encourage drivers to do just that, whether they are driving in Soldotna or anywhere else on the Kenai Peninsula. Roads by themselves aren’t unsafe; it’s the actions of other drivers that create dangerous conditions.
While we’re talking about driver safety, we’d like to remind everyone that if you’ve been drinking, please don’t drive. State and local law enforcement have stepped up patrols for the long Independence Day weekend and will be watching for impaired drivers. Enjoy the Fourth of July holiday, but if your plans include drinking, please, designate a driver, stay the night or call a cab.