Talking on a cell phone or texting while driving in Battle Creek could cost you now.

While Battle Creek City Commissioners passed the local ordinance in early February 2019, city crews have just now finished installing signs at all entry points of the city notifying drivers that hand-held electronics are prohibited while driving within city limits.

Within the City of Battle Creek, it is against the law to use a hand-held cell phone while driving for almost any reason, and police now will use it as an educational tool, and can enforce it. A first offense for violating the ordinance will cost a driver $100 and any second or subsequent offense will be $200.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that distracted driving is not just dangerous, it's deadly. In 2017, distracted driving caused 3,166 deaths. A number that continues to rise each year.

The City Commission in February approved the new rules related to distracted driving, a change to the city’s Uniform Traffic Code, Chapter 410 of the city’s ordinances. The ordinance prohibits the hand-held use of a cell phone while driving a vehicle. This includes scrolling and typing on a phone, as well as speaking.

These rules are in effect within the boundaries of the City of Battle Creek. Crews have posted signs at entry points of the city, alerting drivers to the local law. Police did not issue tickets related to the ordinance before staff installed the signs.

A state law prohibits texting while driving, but the new city ordinance is more enforceable. It can be difficult to prove a driver was texting while driving, as opposed to scrolling through Facebook, or browsing the internet. The local law addresses a broader variety of activities that take drivers’ attention away from the road.

Police Chief Jim Blocker does not expect to issue an abundance of tickets related to the ordinance.

There is a shared responsibility on our part to get the message out – and this works well with the state law – that distracted driving is not safe driving. ~ Battle Creek Police Chief Jim Blocker

Exceptions to the law are radio operators licensed by the FCC; police officers, fire department personnel, law enforcement officers and others driving emergency vehicles while performing their official jobs; and anyone reporting a traffic accident, medical emergency or serious road hazard.