Gahanna City Council is considering a plan to expand penalties for drivers who repeatedly break the law related to distracted driving.

Gahanna City Council is considering a plan to expand penalties for drivers who repeatedly break the law related to distracted driving.

Gahanna resident Sharon Montgomery told council Dec. 7 she has been working around Ohio for 13 years to get effective legislation to restrict driving under the influence of electronics.

Her husband died in 2000 after complications from an accident caused by a texting driver.

When council members in 2010 discussed a local texting law, Montgomery said, they chose to continue the general "full time and attention" law but added incremental penalties for repeat offenses.

Section 331.34 of city code addresses failure to control, weaving and full time and attention while driving.

"It was an idea worth trying, but unfortunately, I haven't seen any evidence that it has had much effect on drivers using e-devices," she said.

Montgomery said she was in a very near-miss situation with a driver using a cellphone just a few weeks ago.

"That driver wasn't worried about any penalties," she said.

Council is considering legislation to amend Section 331.34 to expand the use of incremental penalties for repeat offenses.

Incremental penalties and increased penalties when serious harm results are both tools for enhancing traffic safety but only when offenders are actually stopped, cited and penalized, Montgomery said.

"To a lawmaker or law enforcer, against the law means it's on the books," she said. "To a potential offender, against the law means only 'the risk I'll get caught is too high to chance it' "

She asked council to get statistics on how often drivers are stopped and cited for the general inattention law and how many of those citations also note distractions caused by electronic devices.

Montgomery said the figures should help council decide if whether they've seen any benefit to incremental penalties or if an underlying problem should be addressed first -- namely, stopping and citing "e-distracted" drivers.

"When drivers believe they will get stopped, incremental penalties may well serve as an additional deterrent," Montgomery said. "Right now this code section doesn't appear to be deterring many e-distracted drivers."

The issue will be further discussed during council's next committee session that begins at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14.