Steering away the call

Andy Ouriel and Andy Ouriel

Motorists driving in and through Bowling Green might have to resist the urge to talk and ignore a call while driving next month if an ordinance banning hand-held devices such as cell phones is passed. Up until May 5, registered voters of Bowling Green can place their vote on the ballot at the court house. Citizens will decide whether or not they are in support of people operating mobile telephones while driving within the city limits in Bowling Green, Interstate 75 excluded. By voting yes, residents will want a cell phone ban to exist. By voting no, this ordinance would not be adopted. If the ordinance is passed and a person driving is found talking, listening, dialing, texting or using a phone in any other way by taking away one arm from the steering wheel, the Bowling Green Police Department can pull the driver over on the account of a primary offense, which means a person isn’t violating any other traffic laws, and would be subject to a $150 fine. Emergency phone calls will be permitted along with all law enforcement and firefighters while operating a vehicle. Hand-free devices such as a Bluetooth are permitted and encouraged. Last night at the Simpson Building on Conneaut Avenue, citizens gathered in a town-hall format to discuss the potential outcomes of the ordinance and the concerns they have in front of Councilman Bob McOmber and proponent against the cell phone ban, Norm Heimeman. ‘There have been dozens of studies that have concluded driving and using cell phones is a dangerous combination,’ McOmber said. Trying to persuade the audience, McOmber cited 7 percent of all automobile accidents are caused from the use of a cell phone while driving, contributing to 2,600 deaths and 12,000 injuries a year. ‘I would tell you cell phones have been singled out because they are the biggest form of driver distraction,’ McOmber said. But for proponents against the ban like Heimeman, who conducts a majority of his business on the phone while driving, this ordinance is unnecessary, especially to those like himself who maintain staying safe on the road. ‘I’m just offended by the law itself and the discrimination involved against people who don’t have the hands free device,’ Heimeman said. ‘It just doesn’t make sense.’ Heimeman, who fully expects this ordinance to pass, said young people like college students will be affected the most because of their rampant and adaptive use of technology – making them more prone to use cell phones than any other age group. Jon Smith, who graduated from the University last year, is one of those people Heimeman said will bare the worst of it if the ban passes. Smith worries if the ordinance does get passed, he could miss a very important business call if he is driving through Bowling Green abiding the law. ‘I can miss out on $100 or $10,000,’ Smith said in regards to taking calls for his bail bond business. Smith, who will vote against the ban, realizes just how crucial the cell phone is to being successful in the business world. ‘I don’t believe there should be any restriction,’ he said. ‘The cell phone has made our industry much more productive and profitable for all of us.’ Judy Knox, a resident of Bowling Green since 1972, disagrees with Smith and said drivers’ safety should always come above a business phone call while operating a vehicle. Knox said she would be in favor of the ordinance using safety as her primary decision. ‘I think an ordinance is a good attempt at trying to work on public safety,’ Knox said. While there were many polarizing figures during the discussion, Niki Messmore, who also graduated from the University in 2008, is one voter on the fence with the issue, but was unimpressed with the empirical data showing why an ordinance is necessary in Bowling Green. ‘I do agree that there is a danger of people using their cell phones while driving, however I don’t know what the danger here is in Bowling Green. I would like to see some facts backing that up about how many traffic collisions are related to cell phone usage,’ she said. If the ordinance passes, Heimeman and other business operators will have to find another alternative to conduct work and will most likely cut down on his productivity. Even if he does not get what he wants, Heimeman is happy he at least got his voice heard by the public. ‘Everyone is entitled to my opinion,’ he said.