Hilliard Northwest News

City Council keeps local texting ban on the books

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

After nearly six months of consideration, Hilliard City Council members opted Feb. 11 to keep the city's law that makes texting while driving a primary offense.

Ohio law enacted in 2012 makes texting while driving a secondary offense, except for drivers age 17 and younger, for whom it is a primary offense.

City Council members voted 5-1, with Joe Erb dissenting, to strike from the agenda a proposed ordinance that would have repealed the local texting-while-driving law they enacted in May 2010.

"Texting while driving is bad, but I don't think it should be a primary offense," Erb said.

In August 2012, former Law Director Pam Fox suggested that Hilliard repeal its law because it conflicted with the state law, even though the city was not required to do so.

However, some City Council members still viewed the local law as a good public relations tool, if not an effective means of enforcement.

Deputy Police Chief Bobby Fisher, at a previous meeting, said texting-while-driving statutes are difficult to enforce, requiring subpoenas to prove the precise time a text was sent or received.

Most often, police apply a charge of failure to pay full-time attention, an easier charge to levy in at-fault accident investigations than a charge of texting while driving.

The ordinance that would have repealed the 2010 law remained in committee through the end of 2012. In January, then Assistant Law Director Tracy Bradford advised the city to repeal the local statute because of the conflict with state law.

However, Councilman Nathan Painter, a former Franklin County prosecutor, said Hilliard police should have the ability to enforce either the state law or the local law on a case-by-case basis.

When it became clear that City Council intended to keep its existing law on the books, City Council President Brett Sciotto asked if the law department had any comments.

Bradford, who is now the city law director, said she had no comment.

Sharon Montgomery, a Gahanna resident, thanked City Council for its stand.

Montgomery also had attended a Hilliard meeting in May 2010 when the original ordinance was proposed and was aware that Hilliard was considering repealing the law.

Her husband, John, 51, was killed in a crash in 2000 involving a man who was talking on a cellphone.

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