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Published: Tuesday, 9/16/2008

Bowling Green voters to say if drivers may use cell phones

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN Whether motorists are allowed to talk on cell phones inside Bowling Green s city limits will be a decision made by the people.

After more than an hour s discussion of a proposed ban on cell phone use while driving, city council last night agreed to put the question to Bowling Green voters in May.

Councilman Robert McOmber, who introduced the idea in June, said he felt certain a majority of the community favored a cell phone ban, but he would support asking voters to make that decision something a majority of council said they would prefer.

If this body wants to do something, I would be more comfortable putting it on the ballot, council President Megan Newlove said.

I don t think you could go wrong with the public making a decision, At-Large Councilman Larry Sorrells agreed.

Fourth Ward Councilman Mike Frost was the lone member of council who said he was against pursuing any type of cell phone ban.

I just don t feel this is the right body to be passing this kind of legislation, Mr. Frost said. I ve just got this feeling it s going to put the community at odds.

Mr. Frost said he had heard from 37 people, all but one of whom was against a cell phone ban. The person who supported the idea did not own a cell phone, he said.

I just don t know if it s a very serious problem in our community, Mr. Frost said. Obviously, there are people involved in accidents from cell phones, but we could find people in accidents who are eating Do we consider all these driver distractions?

Elmer and Mavis Girten were among four residents who spoke in favor of the proposed ban. Their car was broadsided in May when a woman talking on a cell phone drove through a stop sign at Dunbridge and Poe roads.

My wife is 89 years old now and if she has to suffer with pain the rest of her life because of this accident, I think something should be done and done real fast, Mr. Girten said.

Five people expressed opposition to the proposal, several of whom said a ban would not be business-friendly.

Earlene Kilpatrick, director of Main Street BG, said downtown business owners were concerned about how the city would inform the public about the ban, especially the thousands of visitors who come to Bowling Green each year. They also wonder what enforcement would cost.

Some residents said cell phones help people work more efficiently and are not proven to be a danger on the road.

My personal view of this is I think we should take our lead from the surrounding communities and the state, none of which have laws prohibiting this, said Kris Phillips.

Robert Berg said he did not think Bowling Green should wait for other communities to act, but should take the lead in promoting public safety. He, too, had been struck by a driver who was on a cell phone.

It s obviously the right thing to do, Mr. Berg said, adding that six states ban cell phone use while driving.

Mr. McOmber told council he knocked on about 200 doors on the city s west side and surveyed about 200 BGSU students on the issue.

While about 83 percent of year-round residents told him they favored a ban, about 75 percent of the university students said they opposed such a ban.

No students attended the meeting to speak out about the proposal.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:jfeehan@theblade.comor 419-353-5972.



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