North Huntingdon approves policy limiting employees’ cellphone use while driving
North Huntingdon employees driving on township business have to pull off the highway and stop their vehicle if they want to make or take a call or text on their cellphone.
Township commissioners recently approved the policy on a 3-2 vote with commissioners Brian Blasko, Darryl Bertani and Zachary Haigis in favor. Duane Kucera and Fran Bevan opposed the policy. Commissioners Dave Herold and Tony Martino were absent.
The policy isn‘t a response to anything employees are doing or how they have been operating vehicles, but is a “proactive measure” to ensure the safety of residents and a positive model for drivers to follow, said Blasko, who proposed the policy.
State law does prohibit texting and driving.
Bevan questioned the need for a such a policy.
“Are we addressing something that is not really a problem?” Bevan said, suggesting the township could be left with a policy that just sits in a book.
She suggested casting a “wider net” to educate the community about distracted driving — by creating an educational video that would be available at the Town House and local schools or by using signs on Route 30 to urge drivers to refrain from using their phones.
Kucera said he opposed implementing the policy because it bans using hands-free phone systems that allow drivers to watch where they are driving.
“I don’t think we should tie the hands of our employees,” Kucera said. “I think we are being a little too stringent.”
Police would be exempt from the policy because of the need to use cellphones during emergencies.
The discipline for violating the policy is progressive, said Jeff Silka, township manager. It starts with a chat from the employee’s supervisor, increasing to reprimands if violations continue. Repeated violations could lead to termination.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .