Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cell Phone Hands Free Law is Coming!

Update- 1/24 Council passed handsfree only cell phone ordinance 4-3. It will go into effect on June 1, 2011. We voted 4 to 2 at the City Council to support a ban on using hand held cell phones while you drive in Highland Park. While the Mayor was not at the meeting, Councilman Levenfeld and myself did not support the motion because we have the position that people should not use cell phones at all while driving.

What was the determining factor to me was the fact that someone using a hands free cell phone was distracted more (according to a Utah study) then someone who had a blood alcohol level of .08, which is being drunk according to Illinois law. Also according to a survey we recently sent out about 80 % of Highland Park residents thought that using a cell phone while driving threatened the safety of residents.

One of my fundamental calls as your City Councilman is to be sure government is maintaining a safe place to live. While I am a strong advocate of personal freedom, I do draw the line at allowing individuals to take unnecessary actions that might imperil others. As when I supported our no smoking ordinance in public places, I feel that asking folks to not talk on the phone while driving is not an unreasonable request.

While it is obvious that enforcement is difficult at best under the consensus of a hands free ordinance, I do not believe our police would take on any additional burden with a total ban. After all if someone does not have a cell phone in their hand, the only other visual evidence would be a phone screen showing a call or if they could hear the conversation on a mild day while windows were open. Under any case I would not ask our police force to take any aggressive steps to enforce the ordinance other than their visual cues that are obvious and currently taken as they enforce our distracted driving ordinance and current Illinois laws.