UPDATE: Assembly passes school zone cellphone restrictions

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Anchorage (KTUU) - UPDATE 9:30 p.m. Tuesday May 21:

The Assembly voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance restricting cellphone use in school zones at Tuesday's regular meeting. The parameters of the original story below still apply.

Original story

Tuesday's assembly meeting could bring big changes to Anchorage roadways. A proposed ordinance targeting handheld cellphone use is on the agenda after it was tabled at the last meeting, and now members of the assembly say a vote could finally happen at this week's meeting.

The debate that held up votes last week revolved around defining "active school zones." Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar says that recent workshops have helped to clarify a lot of those details.

"The language we are looking at right now is 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., 7 days-a-week in areas that are marked with signs as school zones," he said.

The 24/7 "active" classification pertains to all school zones with a speed limit of 25 mph or lower, as well as 45 mph school zones (when signage lights are flashing), according to Assemblyman John Weddleton.

The assembly will likely vote on any needed amendments before considering the actual ordinance, which would carry a fine of $500 for offenders. The law doesn't pertain to vehicles that are parked, or drivers that are attempting to reach response agencies in the event of an emergency.

During an interview with KTUU, Dunbar said that this ordinance isn't about finding new ways to ticket people. He says it's an effort to continue making the streets of Anchorage safer.

"The state limits the amount that we can do and texting is already banned citywide at all times," he said, "We're talking about going further than that. You can still talk hands-free."

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