Smile Politely

Ask Politely #10

In late March, Alderman Charlie Smyth introduced an ordinance to the Urbana City Council that resulted in a packed council chamber and so much discussion — a vote on the proposal was postponed until April 14.

During the next committee as a whole meeting of the city council, the members will revisit the ordinance that could potentially ban cell phone usage while driving in the City of Urbana. Although, some members were in favor of a hands-free cell phone ban — similar to ordinances in cities such as Chicago and New York City — Smyth’s bill calls for a full ban on the use of cell phones, including Bluetooth devices, while behind the wheel.

Smyth argues that a hands-free ordinance would not be effective because there is no difference cognitively between using a hands-free set or a hand-held device; both options take the driver’s mind away from operating the vehicle.

Most any driver has been annoyingly cut off only to pass the culprit, whom — surprise! — is talking away on a phone. However, with a comprehensive ban, questions arise about how to enforce a ban on hands-free electronic devices; how to educate the public about the new ordinance; and in two cities separate by name only, how to spread the word that when you enter the city limits of Urbana, it’s time to end the conversation.

After much debate, the council opted to further the conversation and have City Attorney Ronald O’Neal draft a new ordinance addressing questions raised at the March 25 meeting.

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