Shaker Heights bans hand-held cell use while driving

SHAKER HEIGHTS -- On Monday, City Council voted to ban use of hand-held cell phones to talk or text while driving. The ordinance will be effective March 26. Through May 25, the police will issue warnings to drivers in violation.

After May 25, tickets will be issued.

A Bluetooth earpiece is permitted while driving. The new ordinance does not ban Google glass but city officials do not recommend its use while driving.

The prohibition on the use of handheld cellphones while driving is now a primary offense, meaning police could stop and ticket a driver for using a handheld cellphone without observing or citing for any other offense.

A violation would be a first-degree misdemeanor, with a potential maximum penalty of $1,000 fine and 6 months in jail. Two points would be assessed to the person's driving record. Tickets would be waiverable or drivers could contest a ticket in court.

The city's previous law, and the State of Ohio's current traffic laws, prohibit texting for all drivers, but treat it as a secondary offense for drivers 18 years of age and older. This means that an adult driver may not be stopped for the sole purpose of determining compliance with the texting ban or to ticket the driver for violating the ban.

The city prohibited and the state prohibits any cell phone use by minors with a temporary driving permit or probationary license. In addition to a violation being a minor misdemeanor, a violator is subject to a 60-day license/permit suspension.

Why did the city decide to ban cell phone use while driving?

According to the city, there are two dangers associated with driving and cellphone use, including text messaging and using the Internet, jeopardizing the safety of vehicle occupants and pedestrians.

First, drivers must take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel to manipulate the devices when dialing, texting and surfing the Web.

Second, people can become so absorbed in their conversations and other uses that their ability to concentrate on the act of driving is severely impaired. This includes time spent at a traffic signal, when a driver's conversation may distract him or her from noticing the light changing or oncoming traffic.

The latest research shows that using a cellphone when driving is just one of many types of distracted driving that may lead to crashes and near crashes. However, the distractions associated with cellphone use while driving are far greater than other distractions. Conversations using a handheld cellphone take one hand off of the steering wheel for an extended period of time, and they demand greater continuous concentration, which diverts the driver's eyes from the road and his or her mind from driving.

In 2011, the five members of the National Transportation Safety Board unanimously recommended that all states should ban all driver use of cellphones and other portable electronic devices, except in emergencies.


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