Officials are grappling with how to enforce the anti-texting ordinance that Bexley City Council approved Sept. 22.

Officials are grappling with how to enforce the anti-texting ordinance that Bexley City Council approved Sept. 22.

The law, which takes effect Oct. 23, prohibits drivers from sending text messages. Offenders could be charged with a minor misdemeanor and fined up to $150 if convicted.

Mayor John Brennan said that when stopping motorists for texting, police officers need to make sure drivers are actually sending a text message and not answering their cell phones.

"It is pretty much in its infancy until we get the guidelines for what we are going to do," he said. "We will be looking for people texting that would be very noticeable."

Brennan said the legislation is a step in the right direction, but there may be enforcement issues early on.

The amended ordinance passed by council makes texting and driving a primary offense rather than a secondary offense, meaning motorists can be pulled over for text messaging.

Sgt. Tony Martin said police officers will keep their eyes open for violations, especially if they happen to stop a car for reckless driving. Even though texting and driving is a primary offense, officers won't enforce the law unless they have a reason, he said.

"I don't see any reason why we would have selective enforcement on that offense," Martin said, adding he doesn't intend to stop motorists for texting and driving unless it is affecting their driving.

The amended ordinance also stipulates motorists may not text on public roadways, thus enabling a driver to send a text message from a parking lot.

Council member Jed Morison, who introduced the legislation in July, said "motor" was taken out of the original legislation in order to include all vehicles, including bicycles.

The legislation does stipulate a motorist may send a text message for a health or safety emergency.

"Technology is wonderful," Morison said. "We just need to keep up with it with our laws. We need to keep reminding ourselves of the potential danger to prevent accidents."

Council member Robyn Jones was pleased with the amendments to the ordinance. She said no one wants to see people drive and text message at the same time.

"If we were going to do this, I wanted to do it right," Jones said.

Morison said he has a friend whose son was injured in a car accident, although the accident did not involve text messaging. The young man sustained severe brain injuries and he can't walk, talk, feed himself or breathe on his own.

He thanked council members for their support, city attorney Lou Chodosh for helping to write the ordinance and police Chief Larry Rinehart whose officers will be citing drivers.

"When I raised this issue the very first time in July there was great support from council," he said. "I appreciate all the input folks have made."

Gahanna resident Sharon Montgomery commended council for passing the legislation. Her husband died and she sustained life-threatening injuries in a car crash nine years ago involving a driver using a cell phone.

Montgomery said passing an anti-texting law doesn't take away personal freedom because using a cell phone while driving infringes on someone else's rights.

"There is no personal freedom to drive," she said

State Rep. Nancy Garland (D-New Albany), who is sponsoring an anti-texting bill in the Ohio House of Representatives, said Bexley may be leading the way.

"Hopefully by the end of the year we will be doing the same thing at the state level," she said.