As you may know, a small committee consisting of City Council members, police officers, members of the city attorney’s office, the city manager and others began examining the issue of distracted driving several months ago. The committee concluded that there is a need to take some action on this issue. At present, 47 states across the nation prohibit texting while driving in some form, and approximately a dozen states prohibit any use of a cell phone or similar device in any manner while driving. Furthermore, it appears that our state legislators are not likely to pass any legislation regarding distracted driving in the near future and that several counties and municipalities across the state have already enacted legislation to address the issue.
The committee wanted to address not just texting while driving, but the larger issue of distracted driving as a result of cell phones and hand-held devices. They also wanted any legislation to be reasonably enforceable by our police officers. The committee concluded that a ban on the use of cell phones for texting, talking, e-mailing, viewing websites, etc. was the most appropriate approach. Therefore, the proposed solution is a ban on the use of a cell phone or similar device while driving. The solution includes exceptions for emergencies and first responders. It also permits devices to be used if they can be done so “hands free.” Among other things, this would enable most drivers to use the GPS function of their device while driving.
The proposed ban would incorporate a graduated penalty system. A first offense would carry a maximum penalty of $100, a second offense would carry a maximum penalty of $200 and a third offense would carry a maximum penalty of $300 and the potential for the court to seize the offender’s device. According to the committee, the language of the proposed solution is largely the result of picking and choosing from the language and approaches of various jurisdictions that have tackled this issue.
City Council is especially interested in receiving neighborhood associations’ feedback on this issue. Please share any concerns, suggestions, etc. that you may have – either in writing by e-mailing Leslie Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org , or in person by speaking to her at the public hearing. The public hearing hasn’t been scheduled yet, but a tentative date of January 13 has been suggested by staff. You can also leave comments on our website and we will pass them along to city.