Lakewood City Council members agree that texting and driving is incredibly dangerous.
But after months of consideration, council’s public safety committee decided not to propose new legislation that would have made texting and driving a primary offense.
Instead, council voted to “mirror” the new state code in place, passing an ordinance that updates the laws on the books regarding driving while texting.
While Ohio recently became the 38th state in the country to ban texting and driving, Lakewood officials looked to take the new law one step further.
“Personally I am inclined to modify the proposed ordinance to mirror the version that was recently passed by the state,” said Ryan Nowlin, councilman at-large and chairman of the public safety committee.
Ward 1 city councilman David Anderson introduced the measure in September that would have — among other things — made texting and driving a primary offense for adults.
That means, had the ordinance passed, that police could’ve stopped motorists just for texting while driving. The state law makes texting and driving a primary offense for minors only.
Lakewood already has a “full time and attention” law on the books that allows police to stop motorists who text and drive.
“We have heard unanimous thought that texting and talking on the phone while driving are distractions,” Anderson said. “I don’t think anyone would disagree with that.”
“I’ve come to understand that our local ordinance already allows drivers to be cited for that.”
However, council members also talked about a planned partnership with the administration to get the message out about the dangers of driving while distracted.
Anderson proposed posting some signs.
“I think it would be wonderful to promote awareness that in Lakewood, if you’re using a hand-held electronic device while you’re operating a motor vehicle is considered distracted driving and you can be cited,” he said.
Kevin Butler, the city’s law director, shared that the number of citations related to the “full-time-attention” ordinance has steadily increased during the past few years.
In 2009, the city prosecuted 264 citations; 412 in 2010; and 443 in 2011. Those citations also include some crashes in the city, he added.
“From an enforcement standpoint, we’ve got officers who are good at detecting distracted drivers,” Butler said.