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Mission mulls ban on drivers' hand-held phones

Published on -9/17/2012, 7:57 AM

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MISSION, Kan. (AP) -- A Kansas City suburb has been considering a ban on drivers using hand-held cellphones.

A proposed ordinance under consideration in the Johnson County suburb of Mission would allow people to talk on hands-free cellphones. But police would be able to pull over drivers who are holding phones within about 8 inches of their heads.

The ordinance is before the Mission City Council's finance and administration committee and will come up for discussion, possibly in November, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/Ue3VDD ). City officials said they anticipate a lot of feedback from residents based on the number of calls they received when the idea first came up last month.

"A couple of my friends told me I was walking into a hornet's nest," said Police Chief John Simmons, who introduced the measure to the council.

So far, 10 states and the District of Columbia have banned talking on hand-held cellphones. Kansas is among 39 states that ban texting while driving.

The only city in Kansas to ban cellphones for drivers is Manhattan. Brad Schoen, the director of the Manhattan and Riley County Police Department, said the city banned using electronics while driving because so many people seemed to be using them, creating safety concerns.

"I think it is a lot bigger problem than people realized," said Pat Quinn, a Mission city councilman. "I definitely think we could save some lives and property damage and injuries by making that illegal."

Mayor Laura McConwell said the council recognizes the safety issues involved. But she said Mission, which has about 9,400 residents, is a small city in the Kansas City metropolitan area, and the ordinance may require workshops, public hearings and other activities aimed at educating the public.

"This is a pretty big culture shift, so it needs to have a much broader conversation before we move forward," McConwell said.

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