Revision Postpones Texting Ban Till Mid December

November 17, 2009

The citywide ban on texting while driving will not go into effect until mid December at the earliest after the city council on Monday made a substantial change to the law.

The council must now vote one more time on Dec. 14 to make the texting ban effective.

Council members unanimously approved the texting prohibition on Nov. 9 and were voting on the ordinance again yesterday to make it effective. But they made a revision after Mayor Bob Kelly raised concerns that one part of the law was confusing: Whether texting would still be illegal if the person was stopped at a traffic light or stop sign, and the car wasn’t actually moving.

“The intent of the ordinance is that if you pull over and stop and then text, it’s okay,” Kelly said. “It’s just we don’t want the people texting while they’re in motion.”

The ordinance did already indicate that if people were ticketed for texting while driving, they would be able to defend themselves by showing they were stopped at the time they texted. Being stopped was included with five other “affirmative defenses” to get out of prosecution.

“Why do we have to go through these legal gymnastics of the affirmative defense concepts when we can just simply say this law only applies to cars that are moving?,” said Councilman George Boehme. “I would like to change the law and say this only applies to moving vehicles.”

Josh Golden, who sat in for City Attorney Alan Petrov, said that the way the ordinance was written before put the burden of proof on the traffic violator to show they were not texting while driving or they had an affirmative defense. Now with the changes the council made yesterday, the burden of proof is on the city.

People will also still be allowed to make telephone calls while driving, use a GPS system, make any type of emergency call, and send messages if they think a crime is about to be committed or they fear for their safety.

The prohibited actions will be composing any type of electronic message, including texts, emails or surfing the web while the car is in motion. Also, in school zones no one is allowed to use mobile devices for any reason unless they’re using a hands-free device.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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