The phrase “distracted driving” has become part of our lexicon as driver cell phone and texting bans have become more and more commonplace. However, one Ohio town wants to take it one step further and make all forms of distracted driving illegal.
Distracted driving ban
A new state law comes into affect for Ohio in late August. That law makes it illegal for minors to use any handheld device inside a vehicle. It all forbids adults from texting while driving. But that isn’t enough for some city council members in Bowling Green, Ohio.
The council has proposed a law that would allow police to stop and ticket any motorist who is not devoting 100 percent of his or her attention to the task at hand.
Personal injury attorney Mike D. Bell said of the proposal:
“I understand the intent behind the law and it’s great that the legislature is taking advantage of this opportunity to come out to stop distracted driving. As I understand this proposed law, if there’s a failure to maintain full time and attention by the driver, they can be cited with a $25 ticket plus court costs — no points on the license — and it’s for any driver.”
Opposition to the ban
The proposed legislation has met with opposition. Opponents feel its vague language could lead to people being ticketed for such innocuous activity as eating an apple or turning on the radio. Some also suggested it give police too much authority in deciding who is and who isn’t a violator.
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University sophomore Daniel Johnson told the city council:
“You’re … putting a burden on the police to determine what is distracted.”
Bans could increase accidents
Others still have suggested that the legislation could lead to more distraction and accidents as motorists try to hide their behind-the-wheel activity from police.
Bowling Green resident Nathan Eberly told the BG News, a local newspaper:
“It’s a preemptive traffic stop for something as basic as holding a cell phone. It adds risk for people, because now they have to hide what they are doing.”
Eberly went on to say that the police should not have a right to pull drivers over for distracted driving unless it causes other driving errors, such as crossing over marked lines.
Several recent studies indicate that distracted driving bans may be counterproductive and actually increase accidents, due to motorists hiding their cell phones while texting and talking. A 2010 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded that crashes increased by 9 percent in four states following cell phone bans.
A separate Canadian study by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy likewise found that the number of traffic deaths increased in the province of Manitoba in 2009 after a cellphone ban had been imposed. Before that time, the study said, fatal accidents had been on the decline.
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