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Battle Creek Police waits for signs to go up before enforcing distracted driving ordinance

Battle Creek Police waits to enforce hand free cell phone ordinance
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The city of Battle Creek made holding a phone or other device while driving illegal in February, but some people are still doing it without fear of being pulled over.

While many people people in the city are familiar with the distracted driving ordinance, that's not the case for everyone. Until the city can deliver the message clearly to everyone, police will wait to enforce it.

David Henkel, a man trying to cross his bike across Columbia Avenue near the intersection with Capital Avenue, said he always pays extra attention.

"Columbia Avenue is one of the toughest roads to get across because of the heavy traffic, and you really got to be careful. Even when you got the right away, people still want to turn right into you," Henkel said. "I’ve seen it happen. In fact, I almost got hit. A woman was looking at her phone. I was waiting and she was there looking at it. I went ahead and went across the intersection, and she just about clipped me, had no clue that I was even there."

Battle Creek's ordinance was established to prevent scary situation's like Henkel's, or worse, from happening.

"Even though we passed the ordinance, we still can’t issue any citations, because we don’t have the signs up yet," said Battle Creek Deputy Chief of Police Jim Grafton.

City Attorney Jill Steele said any local ordinances that differ from the state's Motor Vehicle Code need to be put up as signs at entrances and exits to the city.

“There is legislation in the state that’s pending that would change the state law, in which case we wouldn’t have to put signs up. We’re keeping an eye on that a little bit to see if we can save money from the city’s budget," Steele said.

Steele said the legislation has moved slowly, and the city won't wait to see what happens.

The Department of Public Works submitted a map of around 30 locations for signs to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).

Steele said because some locations are under MDOT's control, Battle Creek has to wait for MDOT's approval to put them up.

Henkel will have to wait for a less daunting ride across Columbia Avenue.

“I think it’s something they should get moving on," he said. "And I think it’s a good thing, especially with some of these younger people that are so easily distracted and stuff. It’s got to make the road safer for everybody.”

Battle Creek Police will still pull people over and ticket them now for texting and driving, because it's state law.

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