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After many separate discussions about enacting a ban on using cell phones while driving, the council has decided on an ordinance, but surprisingly, the new draft doesn’t include talking on hand-held cell phones and hands-free units.

The ordinance put forth includes an amendment to prohibit sending text messages while driving a vehicle and an addition for bicyclists on the roadway to be susceptible to the same fines. Other elements of the ban include a hefty fine — maximum of $750 — if caught talking or texting on a cell phone while involved in an accident, and an educational program to teach the public about the new ordinance.

Alderman Charlie Smyth, who initially proposed the total ban on cell phones, proposed an amendment to ban hands-free and hand-held phones, but could not get a second from the council. Alderman Brandon Bowersox also proposed an addition to the ordinance, banning the use of hand-held devices exclusively, but no council members seconded his motion.

“I think it is a first step, and I think it should be part of a complete cell phone ban. I think we are ready to move forward on a complete ban,” Smyth says.

Urbana police will take note of traffic accidents where cell phone use was involved and the council will talk about the their findings and the current ordinance again in one year.

“I have concerns about ordinances like this being a form of government harassment,” Alderwoman Danielle Chynoweth says. “Also, I have a concern for public safety.

“I don’t want it to become a community that just nitpicks and stops people from picking up a cell phone.”