A proposed ordinance that would ban the use of handheld devices while driving in the Bexley city limits has received both positive and negative feedback from residents thus far, according to city officials.

A proposed ordinance that would ban the use of handheld devices while driving in the Bexley city limits has received both positive and negative feedback from residents thus far, according to city officials.

Those who attended Bexley City Council's second reading of the ordinance spoke out in favor of the legislation. While only about seven residents attended, those who spoke said the legislation would save lives.

Gahanna resident Sharon Montgomery said her husband, John, was killed in September 2000 by a driver who was using a cellphone. In the years since, Montgomery said she has spoken to state legislators and city councils around Ohio, urging them to adopt bans on drivers using handheld devices, and to make those bans a primary offense.

Montgomery said she previously addressed Bexley City Council when the city adopted its existing ordinance that bans texting, emailing and other uses of handheld devices while driving. She said she applauds the city for going further to promote safety with this proposed ordinance.

"As in 2009, Bexley is steps ahead of the state, not only by expanding the broader use of e-devices, but also by making this a primary offense," Montgomery said.

Stanwood Road resident Howard Schnitz said he has become an outspoken advocate for driving safety since a distracted driver hit his vehicle from behind three years ago.

"I think it's more pervasive than drunk driving because there's a lot more people doing it," Schnitz said of people using handheld devices while driving.

Lyonsgate resident Denise Blank said her daughter is suffering from post-concussion syndrome due to a car accident earlier this year that involved a driver who was talking on a cellphone. Blank said she believes the ban on driving with handheld devices is a first step in preventing accidents like the one that injured her daughter.

"I think it's a start, and it does involve saving lives or serious injuries," she said.

Before the public comments, council members, Mayor Ben Kessler and Bexley police Chief Larry Rinehart discussed the enforceability of the legislation and whether it goes far enough to promote safety.

Councilman Steve Keyes questioned whether the city should follow the lead of states such as Maine, which bans drivers from holding anything that can cause distracted driving, such as a newspaper or a paper map.

"If we really care about this, why don't we go farther than just a handheld device?" Keyes said.

Councilman Richard Sharp, chairman of the Safety Committee, questioned whether the ban on handheld devices would place an undue burden on low-income drivers who can't afford hands-free technology.

"People passing through the city may not have that option," Sharp said.

Rinehart said the legislation would give police officers more latitude to enforce the existing statewide and local ban on distracted driving. Bexley's current law requires that a driver display signs of distracted driving, such as weaving or slowing down unnecessarily, before officers can pull them over.

Under the new legislation, officers could stop drivers "if you're holding that device or doing any manipulation of it," Rinehart said.

City officials discussed having a period of public education before police would aggressively enforce the ban on handheld devices, if council adopts it.

"I think measuring success isn't going to be in the number of tickets written," Kessler said. "I think the measure of success will be an unknown tally of what pedestrians weren't hit and what other vehicles weren't hit."

The third and final reading and council's vote on the ordinance is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, at Bexley City Hall, 2242 E. Main St.

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