Law Adds Restrictions to Use of Electronic Devices in School Zones or on School Grounds

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As of June 20, 2019, the Anchorage Assembly has instituted a new law “Making it unlawful for a driver of any vehicle to talk on a mobile communication device while driving a vehicle within an active school zone or on school grounds.”

The new law makes it unlawful to touch an electronic device in your car while you drive through a school zone. If you are caught breaking the law in a school zone, you may be fined $500 and you may be charged with a class A misdemeanor. 

However, you can only be prosecuted if your hands touch an interfaceable electronic. Talking to your phone is perfectly legal.

Christopher Kleckner, the Dimond Staff and Sudent Services Assistant Principal who notified teachers about the change, said, “I recieved notice when the law was passed a month ago. This occured during a discussion with Officer [Mark] Wells.

Mark Wells, one of Dimond’s long time SROs, said, “Well, if I actually see them, it’s probably going to be when I’m in my car, so I’d pull them over like I’d make any other traffic stop. So that covers in the school parking lot, that covers in the active school zones, and so if I was to see it, I would pull them over.”

Kleckner was not sure at this date if the law would be fully effective, and said, “That is hard to say. The impact on DHS depends on how serious the student population takes the new law.”

However, this may soon not be a problem, as Kleckner said, “They will [notice] once they or one of their friends gets fined and accrues enough points on their license that they are unable to afford insurance.”

And in the end, Kleckner hopes that the law will be effective. 

Kleckner said, “I think the law is much needed and well thought out, and will make people more cognizant of their actions.”

Due to the relative newness of the law, Wells is willing to be lenient while on watch.

Wells said, “Now, I probably at this junction would not write a citation. I’d probably be educating people.

“But this law’s getting out there, people are hearing about it, it’s no longer brand new. But I know that being the SRO, we’re a little kinder and gentler, and I know our traffic unit and our redshift units were going to start enforcing that, and for the first two months they were going to have it be just educational.”

However, Wells is not happy with everything in the new law, and says it doesn’t go far enough.

Wells said, “When I was in California about seven years ago, and I don’t like anything California usually does, but they had already gone to completely hands free. You cannot talk on your phone, you cannot text, you cannot check your email, you cannot have it in your hands.”

Wells would rather have a far-reaching traffic laws like California’s in Alaska instead of the more limited law we have now. 

Wells said, “So then you fast forward to up here, we enacting texting laws, You cannot text while your driving. Well, as an officer driving down the road and I see somebody looking at their phone and hitting buttons, how can I tell from my car if they’re texting or typing in a phone number?

“Now if it lasts, and I’m parallel and it’s a hundred digits long, I can assume that it was no longer a phone call. But at first glance, or if you’re going in opposite directions, you can tell, so I thought that was kind of a law based on good intentions but was realistically difficult to enforce.

Wells’ ́ view is often shared by some students at Dimond.

Angel Stacey, a Dimond senior who frequently drives to school, said, ̈You’re not supposed to be on your phone really anywhere when your driving, so it’s not really that big of a deal. You’re not supposed to text and drive anyway.¨

Stacey said, “It might be easier if it’s everywhere instead of just school zones. But like I said before, you shouldn’t text and drive anyways so it shouldn’t be a big deal.”