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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Texting or Talking While Driving May Become Primary Offense

Posted By on Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 1:40 PM

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As early as March first, new legislation could penalize anyone using a "handheld electronic wireless communications device" while operating a vehicle.

It's an amendment to an earlier texting-while-driving law and would make any infraction a primary offense. In other words, a police officer could flag you down expressly for being on the phone. It's not like you'd have to be cruising through a red light or speeding.

Financial penalties would be pretty steep. The first offense would likely carry a fine of $100. The second, $250. Subsequent offenses would not exceed $500.

Discussion among council members at the public safety meeting this morning revolved around proposed grace periods and court appearances, but the majority of council members seemed in favor, at least in principle.

Exceptions exist, of course. The restrictions would not apply to those using Bluetooth technology, those in a stationary vehicle who are outside a lane of travel, those using a device for emergency purposes, and (questionably) those using a device for navigation purposes.

Complications regarding enforcement were what Councilman Polensek cited as his reservations. Councilman Reed, the ordinance's lead sponsor, indicated that several suburbs have already adopted similar safety measures and that Cuyahoga County is pacing Ohio in terms of distraction-related accidents.

The amendment must be modified slightly and then presented before the finance committee before Mayor Jackson can sign it into law.

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