The public safety and legal affairs committee of Hilliard City Council will begin looking into prohibiting texting while driving.

The public safety and legal affairs committee of Hilliard City Council will begin looking into prohibiting texting while driving.

"We're aggressively gathering information for best practices, both in regard to legislation and education," said chairman Jim Ashenhurst after the Feb. 22 meeting. "We want to do something as quickly as possible, but we want it to be well thought out, enforceable and worthwhile. Hopefully we'll have some of the education effort going on immediately."

No specific legislation or education programs for Hilliard have been proposed yet, Ashenhurst said. Council president Brett Sciotto will talk to the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission about the matter, and Hilliard police chief Doug Francis will look at educating the public, in the schools and the community.

There are currently eight bills pending in the Ohio General Assembly regarding text messaging. Two prohibit driving while using cell phones in general, while the others specify prohibiting text messaging or typing while using a handheld or manually operated mobile communication device.

"There are a lot of bills out there, but they just don't seem to be going too many places," law director Pam Fox said at the meeting. "There's pushback, as you can imagine, from wireless (telephone) companies."

"Bexley has passed local legislation regarding this, Pickerington is considering similar legislation," Ashenhurst said. "Everybody says it's a problem, but I've never really seen statistics that back that up."

"When it comes to traffic crashes, I don't have anything to quantify whether there's a problem or not," Francis said.

"I drive over 100 miles every day," said committee member Tim Roberts. "It's definitely an issue."

Francis said Bexley police chief Larry Rinehart told him their police have not written any tickets for texting while driving because it's an offense that's too difficult to enforce.

"I'm totally opposed to passing a law that's not enforceable," Ashenhurst said. "It's probably not a good idea to pass legislation just because something irritates me."

There also were concerns that legislation prohibiting texting was too narrow in scope, because of the number of uses for smart phones, as well as jurisdiction.

It was pointed out that there are low-tech driver distractions as well.

"I thought of a long list of things people do while they're driving," said committee member Stephanie Kunze, among them "putting on mascara, drinking hot coffee, turning around and talking to a kid."

Council member Albert Iosue called texting a safety issue. "If you're texting, you're not paying attention to the road," Iosue said. "The risk of an accident increases automatically if you take your eyes off the road for five seconds to look at a text or text someone else. I know two people personally who have had a loved one or family member killed because someone was texting while driving and not paying attention to the road.

"I see people texting all the time and swerving across the lines in the road. It may be very difficult to enforce, but if a police officer is driving next to a car that's texting while they're driving, it's enforceable. At least we should look into it."