Lakewood passes ordinance aimed to reduce cell phone use while driving

LAKEWOOD, Ohio -- Texting and driving is illegal everywhere in Ohio; however, one local city has passed an ordinance making cell phone use while driving a primary offense within their city limits.

Ohio Revised Code makes using a cell phone while driving a secondary offense, which means in order to be cited for the violation an officer would have to pull you over for another different violation, like speeding.

However, the city of Lakewood passed a local ordinance Tuesday that makes the violation a primary offense within their city limits, meaning Lakewood officers can pull over a driver and issue a citation just for using a phone while driving.

"The behavior in and of itself poses enough of a public safety threat, enough of a threat to public health, that we need to take action on that behavior alone," said council President Sam O'Leary, who proposed the ordinance.  "It's a very dense community and it's a community that prides itself on being walkable and bikeable and we need to make sure in Lakewood especially that drivers have their heads up and they are paying attention to the road."

The ordinance covers a vast majority of uses for a cell phone including texting, using social media and even holding the phone to your ear to talk.

There are exceptions such as one touch acceptance of a fare for Uber or Lyft drivers, one touch navigation and commercial truck drivers who have a terminal in their cab.  Otherwise, any use of a cell phone that takes two hands off of the wheel is a violation.

"It's fine if you can make a phone call from a one touch system on a mounted device or through a voice activated system or on an onboard system, but if you have your phone out in your hand and you are dialing or holding your phone up to your ear while driving those are things that we want to avoid," said O'Leary.

Lakewood Police Captain Gary Stone, whose patrol officers will have to enforce the ordinance, says he approves of the new law.

"Just a regular ride in the car and you see many, many people talking on cell phones, looking at cell phones, texting on cell phones, and that's growing," said Stone.  "I think people need to stay off their phones when they are driving and making this a primary offense for driving will be a good thing."

"Our objective here is not to raise revenue or to hit people across the knuckles but to really change the culture around this important public safety issue," said O'Leary.

FOX 8 spoke to multiple people in Lakewood who expressed their support of the new law.

"When you come to work in the morning like almost ten cars, eight on the cell phones texting. It's very dangerous -- those things, you know?" said Paramjit Singh Dhillon, a Lakewood business owner.

"It's very dangerous to be texting on the phone. I mean, I believe most wrecks are caused because people are not paying attention to the road," said Tara Crabtree.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported that nearly 4,000 Americans are killed and close to 400,000 are injured annually in accidents involving distracted drivers.

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