By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
People driving in Portsmouth might soon be unable to legally text while driving. Portsmouth City Council has asked Portsmouth City Solicitor Mike Jones to prepare an ordinance outlawing the practice.
“I do know it’s a problem for us. If you have ever gotten stuck behind, or have been driving behind somebody texting, it drives me bananas,” First Ward Councilman Kevin Johnson said. “It’s dangerous. Everyone knows it’s dangerous. This legislation is directly from the (Ohio) House legislation. I reviewed it, went online, looked at the reviews from AAA, from MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), everyone, with some exceptions, supports this.”
The preamble to the “no texting while driving ordinance” reads, “No person shall drive a motor vehicle, trackless trolley, or bus, truck or other conveyance on any street, highway or property open to the public for vehicular traffic while using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send or read a text-based communication.”
Johnson said the ordinance does not address phone calls, and it exempts police agencies. It also exempts the use of a GPS system.
“I’ll just be real honest that when there are so many other traffic violations, and whether it’s through manpower or resources being diverted in other directions, we have all these other ordinances that aren’t fully enforced, having another ordinance is not in our best interest,” Third Ward Councilman Nick Basham said.
Johnson countered, “I know it’s much like legislation coming up with our Health Department, that we have the responsibility to set certain parameters that are acceptable when our state won’t do it.”
Acting Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware was asked if the law would be enforceable. He responded by asking if it would fall under primary or secondary offense status. He was told it was primary, meaning the driver could be pulled over just for texting, and not necessarily for another offense. He told Council it is enforceable.
Second Ward Councilman Rich Saddler said that while he knows it might be difficult to enforce, it could be if someone causes an accident while texting.
“Then, when the police officer is there investigating the accident, then that could be tacked on to the charge,” Saddler said.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com.