Ed Fleming admits he used to be tempted to answer his phone whenever it buzzed while he was driving his car.

"That all changed a few months ago when I was driving on McDowell Road and a distracted driver tore off the front of my car," he said. "Now, I may be tempted, but I always wait to make a call or text somebody. I know the danger of distracted driving."

The Grove City insurance agent suffered a concussion and a few other minor injuries from his accident, but he said, "I'm lucky -- I'm still alive."

Others aren't so lucky, Fleming said.

That is why he appeared last month before Grove City Council, asking that the city consider adopting a ban on the use of cellphones and other devices in vehicles.

Council members are receptive to at least studying the matter, council President Roby Schottke said.

"I've asked our safety committee to take a look at some of the issues or concerns there may be about putting in a device ban," he said. "It's a little preliminary to talk about it until we get more information, but I expect there will be further discussion down the road."

Fleming said his goal is simple -- for the city to enact a law that would make using a phone or other device in a vehicle a primary offense.

"It would have to be something that an officer could enforce just by observing someone driving a car while holding a device in their hand," he said. "That's the only way to make it enforceable."

As an insurance agent, Fleming said, he often handles claims that result after a distracted driver runs into another car.

"It's just a careless, stupid thing," he said. "With hands-free devices and Bluetooth technology, there's really no reason people have to hold a phone to make a call.

"All you need is to take your eye off the road for a few seconds while you check a text, look at Facebook or Snapchat for something really tragic to happen," Fleming said.

Fleming presented council members with a copy of an ordinance adopted in January in Little Elm, Texas, that makes it illegal to even hold a wireless device while driving in the community.

Another example of similar legislation can be found closer to home.

Last October, Bexley became the first municipality in central Ohio to ban drivers from using handheld devices when driving within city limits.

"It's a primary offense, so all our officers have to do is to see you holding a phone or other device and they can issue you a citation," Mayor Ben Kessler said.

Bexley's law gives exceptions to anyone driving an emergency vehicle or reporting a health or safety emergency, Kessler said.

"There is a carve-out for someone who is using a hands-free device (that allows them to keep both hands on the wheel) or a device with one-touch activation that then allows you to go on speaker phone if they pull over to the side of the road to make a call," he said. "You can pull over just about anywhere in Bexley."

The city began an intensive public education campaign about its law and posted signs at all entrances into Bexley, notifying drivers of the device ban, Kessler said.

"We also decided to only issue warnings for the first three months the law was in effect," he said. "Since that initial warning period, our police officers have issued several dozen citations."

The citations are minor misdemeanor traffic violations, Kessler said.

"I think overall our residents are supportive of the ban," Kessler said, adding there have been few problems with the new law.

The city will be monitoring the number of traffic accidents to help determine if the law is having a positive impact, he said.

"In the initial months since the law went into effect, we've seen a decrease in the number of accidents," Kessler said. "But we're a small city and we'll need more data over a much longer period of time to tell if there really is a cause and effect."

Grove City police Chief Jeff Pearson said he generally favors the concept of banning cellphone use by drivers but has concerns about the enforceability.

"I'm definitely in favor of anything that reduces distracted driving, but there needs to be an asterisk by that because of my concerns about whether you could enforce it," he said. "I'm concerned about people from out of town who would travel into our city and who wouldn't be aware of the law."

Schottke said he worries about how the law would be enforced on Interstate 71, where motorists would go from an area where there is no cellphone ban into Grove City where there could be a ban.

Then there are other types of distractions that might cause unsafe driving, Pearson said.

"What is the difference between a distraction caused when you use a phone, and one that's caused because you're combing your hair, or changing stations on your radio or eating a cheeseburger?," he asked.

Kessler said the research he has seen indicates there is a difference between distractions.

"The research shows that using and talking on a cellphone or other device impacts your brain and causes a greater distraction than fiddling with the dial on your radio or having something to eat," he said.

Grove City officials also would need to consider how a bill co-sponsored by state Rep. Jim Hughes (R-Upper Arlington) and Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) might affect any legislation. As proposed, House Bill 95 would impose a $100 fine on a driver whose attention is distracted by any cause, not just cellphones.

"What we're trying to do is keep people's hands on the wheel," Hughes said.

The measure would allow law enforcement to cite motorists for distracted driving in conjunction with another moving violation. A police officer would have to witness the violation and would have a broad interpretation as to what defines distracted driving beyond cellphone use.

Drivers using hands-free devices would be exempt, Hughes said.

The measure would piggyback on current Ohio law that makes it a minor misdemeanor to text while driving when observed in conjunction with another traffic offense.

The state texting ban is almost impossible to enforce, Pearson said, because officers have to prove a driver was texting when the other offense occurred.

Unless a motorist admits to it, the officer has to subpoena the phone and conduct a time check to match any alleged texting with the time when the offense occurred, he said.

A ban on cellphones, which would only require an officer to observe a person using a device, would be easier to enforce, Pearson said.

"What's really needed is a state law to ban cellphone use throughout the state and in all jurisdictions," he said. "Otherwise, you have some communities that have laws and others that don't and differences in the laws that are in place."

ThisWeek staff writer Gary Seman Jr. contributed to this story.

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