You could now face a $500 fine if you're caught driving through an active school zone within the Municipality of Anchorage while texting or talking on a cell phone or other mobile communication device.

A new school zone cell phone ordinance passed in June is now in place within the municipality. Anyone who violates the ordinance would also face a class A misdemeanor if the person driving injures or kills someone. The penalty for a class A misdemeanor is up to a year in jail and a fine up to $10,000.

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"When you're in your car, you're driving a one to three ton missile down the road and you can kill people with one moment of inattention," said Anchorage Assemblyman John Weddleton. "And if you're talking on your phone you're just not paying proper attention."

Weddleton and assemblyman Eric Croft co-introduced the ordinance that the Anchorage Assembly passed over the summer. 

Under the ordinance, it is unlawful for a driver to talk on a "mobile communication device" while driving within an active school zone or on school grounds; this includes school parking lots.

A driver is allowed to be on a cell phone if it's a hands-free device or if someone is stopped on school grounds, such as in a school parking lot. A mobile communication device is defined as a cell phone, smart phone, personal data assistant, wireless tablet, computer or any similar device used for voice or visual communication.

According to the municipality, the ordinance applies to an active school zone with signage between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. and where the maximum speed is 25 mph or less, permanently, or due to a temporary speed reduction indicated by flashing school zone lights.

Weddleton says the 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. measure includes the weekends because of school events that take place on Saturdays and Sundays. 

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However, there are some exceptions. Drivers would be allowed to be on a cell phone if they're dialing 911. Another exception includes someone using a mobile communication device while operating an authorized emergency vehicle while acting in an official capacity.

Correction: In one instance, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the ordinance is effective beginning at 6 p.m.; it's 6 a.m.

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