City council introduces distracted driving ordinance

City council introduced legislation tonight that expands upon the recent state texting while driving ban.

However, it was not met without opposition from community members.

The ordinance would ban any type of distraction that took the operator’s full attention away from driving.

During the lobby visitations, University sophomore Daniel Johnson opposed the legislation and said its vague terms made distracted driving hard to define. He also said that it could distract the driver even more.

If a person is driving and eating a cheeseburger, they are paying attention to those two things, he said.

When they see a police officer, now they have their attention divided between driving, setting down the burger and the police.

“You’re also putting a burden on the police to determine what is distracted,” Johnson said.

First Ward council member Daniel Gordon said when he first saw the language of the legislation, he could relate to Johnson.

“I shared the same concerns … and while this is a new law for Bowling Green, it is not new to the other cities of Ohio,” Gordon said. “The law has been in the books since the 1950’s.”

Community member Nathan Eberly also addressed his concerns about the ordinance.

“It’s a preemptive traffic stop for something as basic as holding a cell phone … it adds risk for people because now they have to hide what they are doing,” Eberly said.

While both Eberly and Johnson were opposed to the vague language, council initially viewed the legislation as a proactive measure to prevent future accidents.

At-large council member Robert McOmber asked, if someone is engaging in activity that’s 50 times more likely to cause an accident, shouldn’t the officer be able to stop them?

If the driver isn’t doing anything to cause an accident while distracted, they shouldn’t be pulled over until they do something that may lead to one like crossing over marked lines, Eberly said.

Council reminded the two that it would be up to the officer’s discretion but if there were any abuse of the ordinance, it would be checked by the court as they discussed a public hearing on June 18.

The legislation needs two more readings before council before it gets voted on.