Signs announcing cell phone ban will go up

There’s just more than a week to go until the official start of Marietta’s ban on handheld cell phones while driving. City officials are putting the final necessary touches in place and are prepared to begin issuing warnings for those drivers caught using their wireless devices beyond the July 5 implementation date.

Signs announcing Marietta’s prohibition of the use of wireless devices by drivers have been ordered and will likely be placed next week at 15 designated major entrances into the city, said Marietta Safety-Service Director Jonathan Hupp.

“We felt it necessary to ensure all the entrances to the city stated there is a prohibition. We routed off some of the major places,” said Hupp.

Mayor Joe Matthews said the number of designated entrances to receive signs is 13, but his office could not provide a list of the selected major entrance roads Wednesday.

The wording and visualizations for the signage announcing bans in other municipalities and states vary from just a picture of a phone with a red circle and slash over it to text about the law, said Hupp.

In Marietta, the city administration, police department, sign department and law director’s office collaborated to design the signs.

The signs in Marietta feature a circle-slashed cell phone icon and announce to those entering the city: “NO TEXTING. NO UNAUTHORIZED CELL PHONE USAGE WHILE DRIVING. ORDINANCE 333.11”

Matthews said he thinks the sign will be self explanatory to the average driver.

“We were trying to come up with something that would not be hard to read,” he said.

The Marietta Police Department is ready to begin aggressively enforcing the law after a two-week warning period starting July 5, said Marietta Police Department Capt. Jeff Waite.

So far, Marietta Police officers have issued no citations under a state law that prohibits texting while driving. However, the new law will be easier to enforce for two reasons, said Waite.

First, it prohibits not only texting but any use of handheld wireless devices. Second, it makes wireless device use by a driver a primary offense. The state law makes texting and driving a secondary offense, meaning the driver first has to commit a moving violation or have improper vehicle equipment before an officer can make a stop, added Waite.

“This is much easier (to enforce),” he said. “If you’re observed by an officer while texting or talking with a cell phone in your hand, you’re going to get pulled over.”

The law also encompasses other devices like tablets, laptops and even GPS units, he said.

The law is a natural extension of what the city officers do each day so there has been no need for additional training on the law, said Waite.

More focus will be put on educating the public about the change, however. The department has already been handing out information during some of their traffic stops about the dangers of using the phone while driving. They plan to continue to do so throughout the two-week warning period and beyond.

Waite said he also plans to track warnings issued during the first two weeks.

Drivers who do not stash their cell phone after the warning period expires July 19 face a ticket and fines. A first citation is a minor misdemeanor which comes with a maximum fine of $150.