Texting on a cell phone from behind the wheel of a moving vehicle may be easy and convenient for some, but Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner wants to make it illegal.
"The city of Toledo believes this is necessary to keep our streets and the citizens driving and walking on them safe," Mr. Finkbeiner said.
The proposed law would make it a minor misdemeanor to send or read text messages while operating a vehicle. Drivers would be able to text message only to contact public safety services or while the vehicle is in park.
"Many states, including California, have banned text messaging while driving and compared it as a distraction similar to drinking and driving," Mr. Finkbeiner said.
The legislation will go to Toledo City Council for approval. The fine has not been established.
Council President Joe McNamara said the proposal "sounds sensible," adding that he thinks hearings on the matter should be held. "The state is looking at this issue, so we may have a pre-emption issue," Mr. McNamara said.
Councilman George Sarantou said he also would call for a hearing.
"It's absolutely a serious concern out there," Mr. Sarantou said. "On something like that, I would rather have the state have a hearing and make a decision because what good is it having it just in Toledo, because it is far more effective if the state does it."
Under the proposal, texting in Toledo while driving would be a primary offense - meaning a police officer could stop a motorist who is observed sending or reading text messages.
Toledo Police Deputy Chief Don Kenney said officers could pull over motorists if they happen to see them texting, but he would not assign officers to specifically find people texting.
"Just this morning, I saw someone drive left-of-center and he was looking down at his phone," Chief Kenney said.
The chief said he expects people to challenge officers who stop them and claim they were dialing a phone number.
The mayor said it would not be reasonable to attempt banning all cell-phone use while driving.
"Everyday, I see every other driver on his or her cell phone," Mr. Finkbeiner said.
In Ohio, half a dozen bills have been introduced this summer. Some have proposed a ban on texting while driving and others have called for a ban on hand-held cell phone use for young drivers.
Rep. Nancy Garland, a Democrat from suburban Columbus, introduced a bill to make texting while driving a primary offense and minor misdemeanor.
An attempt to completely ban hand-held cell phones in Bowling Green failed in May.
Of the more than 25,000 eligible voters in the Wood County city, fewer than 4,100 turned out to cast a ballot on the issue, and only 1,815 voted in favor of the ban.
The law would have prohibited mobile telephone use on the road - that means no dialing, answering, talking, listening, texting, or using a keypad. The ban would have excluded police, fire, and rescue personnel and motorists in emergencies. Using a hand-held phone would have been allowed while the vehicle was parked.
Nationwide, support is growing for limiting the use of cell phones on the road.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have banned text messaging while driving. Six more have enacted bans focused exclusively on new and young drivers.
Six states prohibit talking on hand-held cell phones while driving.
A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute recently concluded that texting increases by 23 times the risk of a collision or close call for truck drivers.
Rich Hanowski, the director of the Center for Truck and Bus Safety at the transportation institute, said texting was a greater hazard than dialing, talking, listening, or reaching for an electronic device, most likely because of the nearly five seconds researchers found the drivers' eyes were off the roadway while texting.
Contact Ignazio Messina at:
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