Cell phone use while driving ordinance
At tonight’s Public Safety & Welfare Committee meeting, an agenda item had to do with a proposed ordinance entitled, “Cell Phone Use While Driving.” This ordinance was deferred from the June 6th meeting and raised some discussion among the commitee members. The ordinance was sponsored by Alderpersons Daniel Prozanski, Jan Michalski, Lawrence Green, and Michael Orth. Chairman Jesse Downing was excused from the meeting; he was taking care of other city business. Vice Chair Green conducted the meeting.
Alderperson Rocco LaMacchia stated that he had a problem with this ordinance. LaMacchia shared with the commitee that his son sells cell phones for Verizon, and his son told him that not every phone is wireless, blue-tooth capable, or comes with a speaker phone feature. LaMacchia stated that he felt that this ordinance would make people go out and have to buy new phones; therefore, this was the reason he gave for his opposition to the proposed ordinance.
Alderperson Michael Orth disagreed. He said that “a day doesn’t go by where he doesn’t see someone on a cell phone while driving, causing a delay of some sort, or someone swerving. I am the biggest proponent of a cell phone,” he said, “but I have mine mounted on the car dash, and I use the speaker phone feature. If a phone is not blue-tooth capable, there are other alternatives. The driver should just pull over to the side of the road. In Chicago, it’s illegal to have a phone in your hand while driving,” Orth stated. Further, “in Los Angeles, you’ll see signs that read ‘Hands Free Cell Use Only.’” Young kids do foolish and dangerous things. “Kids with probationary licenses can’t drive with four people in a car,” Orth reminded the committee. He stated that he feels that there is room for discussion on changing small bits of the ordinance, but that it “was an excellent start.” Orth stated that he is not against new technology, or limiting it, not against stopping progress, but “not at the expense of jeopardizing others’ safety.” Orth stated that he hoped that people would support it.
The proposed ordinance does not ban all cell phone usage while driving for all drivers (as was originally proposed). As currently written, the ordinance does prohibit usage by all drivers in school or construction zones, also usage by drivers with probationary permits who are less than 19 years old, and those who operate a transit or for-hire vehicle. There are also a series of exceptions listed.
Orth moved to approve the ordinance, but it failed for lack of a second. Alderperson Anthony Kennedy moved that the ordinance be sent on without a positive or negative recommendation from the committee, and that motion was seconded by LaMacchia. This motion was approved by a vote of 3 to 1, Orth being the lone dissenting vote.