I’ve already shared my concerns for the then-proposed texting ban that the Columbus City Council was mulling over. Well, the proposal has now become a reality, but I’m still left with as many questions as before.
Reports have the law taking effect in 30 days, provided Mayor Michael Coleman signs off; which I believe he will. The ban allows police officers to pull over drivers JUST for texting. So, they don’t have to have another reason to pull you over and ticket you. I don’t like that all, especially given the vague wording of this ban (so far). A ticket will cost you $150.
Immediately after the news broke, I sent a reply to the 10TV news reporter asking about being at a red or if I was simply holding my iPhone. On a commercial break, he responded to my tweet stating:
@suzdawg you’re asking questions everybody’s asking. it may be difficult to police. #textingwhiledriving
Being “difficult to police” is one way to look at it. I see it more as being easy to abuse. I don’t like police having the power to make discretionary decisions like this. With the popularity of smart phones, you could be doing a million different things that aren’t necessarily texting. You could even be dialing a number to call, not text, someone. It’s also hazardous, but so far, not illegal here. Should the ban have been “no phone use will driving/operating a vehicle” instead? At least that would be more clear.
I mean, should you contest your ticket, it would be the officer’s word against yours (on whether you were texting or not), and we all know it’s damn near impossible to win a case when it’s “he said, she said”. Plus, how would you prove, in court, that you weren’t texting?
I hate to think so negatively on this, but until I get more info, I feel like Columbus City Council passed this ban as a new method to drum up more income for the city. I don’t like that at all.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am very happy that there is a texting ban. Texting while physically operating a vehicle is very, very dangerous and I’ve seen many a near-accident involving people texting or simply talking on their phones. I just need more details on this particular law. I don’t text, or really doing anything other than skip a song, while my car is moving. I feel like that’s a very important distinction.
NBC4 has the following in their story on the passing of this ordinance:
The law would also prohibit surfing the web on a phone while driving along with virtually all interaction with a mobile device aside from talking on it.
*side eye* Everything except talking? So this isn’t really just a “texting ban”, now is it? I really need to see the full language of this bill. I have GPS and an iPod on my phone…
ETA: So, I found the full language of the ordinance and whether or not I have an issue with it hinges on the following section:
This ordinance effectively prohibits the use of a mobile communication device to read, write or send text messages while driving, and likewise, the use any said device to send, read, create, play or interact with internet-based content.
The ordinance does provide an exception for persons using a phone or other mobile communication device to report a health or safety emergency, and it does not apply to any person using a mobile communications device in a vehicle while the vehicle is stopped and removed from the flow of traffic. The ordinance does not prohibit the use of mobile communication devices by passengers.
Now, I thought the highlighted portion meant that operating your phone while at a red light or behind a train was ok, but a friend of mine interpreted “removed from the flow of traffic” as pulled over on the side of the road. I hope my understanding is the correct one, rather than hers because otherwise this is going to cause a lot of problems!
Local news stations are reporting that the police department already thinks it’s going to be hard to police this issue, and are going to concentrate on education. Yea, I’ll believe that when I see it. In the meantime, I hope some of the local media get us answers to some of these questions before the law goes into effect in 30 days.