Thursday, November 05, 2009

Texting while driving - UPDATED

UDATED with responses from council members at the bottom of the post.

Toledo is considering a 'texting while driving' law - to prevent it, not encourage it, though in Toledo you can never quite be sure...

I've sent an email to all members of city council asking them to address the issues raised in this Cato Institute article about the issue, saying the law if pretty much unenforceable.

I expect that I'll hear back from a few of the members - and I'll share them with you by adding updates to this post when I do.

What I don't expect, however, is a quick response from any of them because I believe the article raising questions they've not addressed - so now they have to.

Well, they could ignore the email and questions, so I suppose they don't 'HAVE' to...

But proper diligence in deciding whether or not to implement a law says that you should consider how the law will be enforced and what challenges will be brought against that could, especially in this instance, make the law irrelevant.

Additionally, if it's so bad to read and/or send a text while driving, is it not equally distracting and dangerous to do a host of other things? Will city council be creating regulations that outlaw all those things as well?

I didn't hear any answers to that question - just the whole 'if it can save one life' mantra - the emotional appeal - that too many politicians resort to when logic fails them.

I hope you'll take the time to read the article, which I've previously posted on my blog, and then contact your city council members and demand they tell you how they're going to deal with the issues raised in the article - and all the other dangerous things people do while driving.

You can then leave a comment here for all to see.

We need to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions and that includes having them address such concerns about laws they are going to impose upon us.

UPDATE: Responses from city council members

1) from Lindsay Webb on 11-06-2009 at 9:23 a.m.

"I am going to vote no. I think this should be handled at the State level."

2) from D. Michael Collins on 11-09-2009 at 1:49 p.m.

Mrs. Thurber.......thank you for your e mail concerning "Texting While Driving", please be advised that we will not be voting on this matter at our Council meeting on November 10, 2009. I will ask to have it relieved from my Law and Criminal Justice Committee and we can discuss it again on November 17, 2009 at our Agenda Meeting and then vote on it at our November 24, 2009 Council Meeting. In the event you would like to be at the Agenda Meeting and provide input I would welcome your presence.

I would like to share with you that on November 2, 2009 UPI reported that a poll was conducted by the New Your Times and CBS with 97% of the respondents backing a prohibition for sending text messages while driving.The poll report went on to say that 50% of the pollsters defined texing while driving as equally as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. The poll was conducted from October 5 - 8 and 829 adults responded, with a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

In conclusion, I do understand the argument that we already have laws in place to cover this issue. The traffic code most frequently referred to is Reckless Operation of a Motor Vehicle. To beg the question is operating a motor vehicle when impaired/intoxicated a reckless act and I would suggest it would be defined as such. Then why would we need a traffic statue which specifically addresses this issue, the reason is the act of operating a motor vehicle while impaired/intoxicated becomes the element of the offense and thus removes a subjective opinion from the trier of law. I will end by saying the police department will not carry on a crusade to cite the violators, however this will cause under the force of law the ability to subpoena records from the carrier which may be used in both criminal as well as civil litigation.


D. Michael Collins

This a follow-up response after I raised questions about the process of using a subpeona; the questionable validity of a NYT's poll to Toledo and the enforcment questions I'd previously raised; and the comparison to a DUI when the texting ordinance is a minor misdemeanor:

Mrs. Thurber.......In response to your e mail I respectfully disagree with your assumption concerning the relevance of the New York Times/CBS poll. My point is a law with specificity is preferable over a general assumption and may not have the force of law when the investigating agency seeks to secure by subpoena phone records. To be case specific the execution of a subpoena defining a specific element of an offense, based upon probable cause is in the communities best interest as it provides evidence which can be used in the furtherance of justice.

I terms of enforcement, I am not suggesting that reckless operation of a motor vehicle is sufficient to command a response to a subpoena, having said that a specific law or element defined as texting would have the force of law attached. The use of a subpoena would be determined by the nature of the event and the need for the record. In the event of a serious injury or fatal accident I can assure you that a carrier record would go a long way to help the State/City or Plaintiff in proving the case.

In closing, speeding, running a red light, running a stop sign and most all other traffic offenses are minor misdemeanors, In this case the second offense becomes a 3rd degree misdemeanor and the third or more becomes a 2nd. degree misdemeanor. In my opinion, our Democracy and freedoms are in fact law based, and the laws are created to insure and protect the citizens from harm and injury.

D. Michael Collins

3) from Tom Waniewski on 11-9-09 at 8:21 p.m.

I've had some discussion with D. Michael Collins, who is sponsoring this.
It is my understanding the ordinance will not be acted on until our last council meeting in November. As you may have read some time ago, I was not in favor of such legislation because current "Reckless Operation" laws exist in the city. After receiving much email on the matter, and with the amount of texting that I personally do while driving, I am convinced there is some merit in the approach, but I'm not sure if this is the way. For example, would adding, "including text messaging...." to the existing reckless operation laws suffice. Or a resolution strongly urging the police department to enforce reckless driving laws, (including putting lipstick on while driving) be the best approach. I did learn the following:

- in the past 12 months for violations of TMC 331.23 "Failure to Control; weaving; full time attention"
1334 tickets were issued under this section of which 241 specified subsection (c)- full time attention.

I don't have the numbers at my finger tips for reckless operation but it was about twice that number for the past 12 months.


Tim Higgins said...


I am proposing that Mr. Steel and Mr. Collins combine their efforts into the "Toledo Omnibus Auto / Bicycle while Driving Legislation (T.O.A.D.). TOAD would allow no texting while driving a car, riding a bicycle, or passing a bicycle at a safe distance while driving a car.

It is not that I want this nonsense put into law, but rather that I would like to see this natural fertilizer buried all at once.

Plus I kinda like the name.

Roman said...

Refering to Tim's comment, I think that is a great idea!

Everyone knows, 'Before you find your handsome prince, you have to kiss a few toads'.

In the City of Toledo, we have been kissing 'toads' for years.

Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...

I rather fancy the idea of outfitting the bicycles of concerned citizens (Steve Steele comes to mind) with wire cages, ensuring them of their 3 ft. safety cushion.

Seems like a "no-brainer" (on soo many levels) to me ;-)

Drive said...

Without losing concentration on the road, I listen to incoming text messages and emails in my BlackBerry with mobile application.

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