Saturday, November 21, 2009

November 2009 legislative update: Texting while driving prohibition progress.

Sharon Montgomery writes:

On Thursday morning (Nov. 19) , Ohio House: Rep. Nancy Garland gave great sponsor testimony on HB 270 making Driving While Texting (DWT) a primary offense. She had lots of the alarming facts and statistics and made the obvious point that no text message was worth dying for. She pointed out that more Ohio cities are passing their own laws so it's important for the state to pass one law that will be consistent. She knows another, recent, victim family who will testify. Only two committee members made comments.
Rep. John Domineck referred to his efforts which he didn't specify but I see in my files as being HB 274 which he co-sponsored. His proposal was introduced in May of 2005 to prohibit using a hand-held phone while driving. HB 274 would have created the offense of inattentive driving, and required the Ohio State Highway Patrol to collect data on phone crashes on this issue. Rep. Domineck said he was "eaten alive" by his sponsorship of HB 274 and so said "Amen!" to Rep. Garland's attempt.

Rep. T. Todd Book, also a cosponsor of HB 274 asked the usual question about law enforcement support. Rep. Garland gave a brilliant answer. Since law enforcement has been so silent and invisible on these bills, she didn't have much more to report than other sponsors have but made various positive-sounding almost-answers that gave the impression of support. Her piece de resistance was that she hasn't talked to any law enforcement people who feel we shouldn't go forward.

Rep. Joseph F. Koziura was scheduled for sponsor testimony on HB 266 to restrict texting and phoning, after missing his chance a couple weeks ago due to illness. He wasn't there and no reason was given. There was some speculation that maybe he was dropping his bill. I talked to his aide today and she said he had business in his district Thursday but planned to give sponsor testimony and continue with his bill.

I talked to House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee chair Linda S. Bolon's aide today. With my reassurance that I fully understand that these decisions can't always be made too far in advance and that they are subject to change, he was willing to help me outline a probable timeline. I told him I had people waiting for updates, wanting to testify, and needing to be able to plan. That committee has a "slew" of gun control bills and a "slew" of DWP/T bills so Rep. Bolon and House leadership will discuss how to proceed with them. The committee will meet December 1 & 15 then probably not until January. With Rep. Koziura still wanting to do sponsor testimony and Rep. Bolon's original plan to hold all first hearings, the scenario most likely at this point is HB 266 sponsor hearing December 1 and proponent testimony on whatever bill(s) will go forward on December 15 or in January, 2010.

Ohio Senate: No word on proponent testimony for SB 164.

Law enforcement: FOP Ohio, Ohio Chiefs of Police Assoc, and Buckeye State Sheriffs' Assoc. have not had the courtesy to reply to my e-mails and letter. Summit County Sheriff will come or send someone from his office to testify. He has asked me to keep him updated.

ODOT: The committee reviewing the uniform crash report has gotten thru the section on crash elements. They're now working on the section about the cars involved. The topic of driver distraction has come up several times and committee members seem to feel an element reporting driver distraction should be added. There has been no "formal" discussion of this yet; that will come when they get to the section on the people involved. They meet again in late January and will probably need a couple meetings to get thru the cars section and be ready for the people section. No news on follow-up to ODOT's summit.

Cities: Toledo's amended ordinance is now out of Safety Committee and is probably going to be on the November 24 Council agenda. Columbus suburbs Dublin and Pickerington are reported to be thinking about this. I've gotten no response to e-mail to all of Dublin Council offering information. I just learned of Pickerington so will make the offer there, too. My own suburb, Gahanna, has discussed it in committee and had a meeting with City Attorney, Deputy Police Chief, a Councilman, and Mayor. No one has volunteered to update me so I will start asking.

Congress: There are now two Senate bills: one to withhold highway money from states that don't pass DWT laws and one to provide money to states who do pass them. Half the money would have to be used for education and enforcement to supplement the law and half could be used for other traffic safety purposes. The House also has a bill using the incentives approach.

USDOT: No news on follow-up to that summit.

Oprah: On November 19, she taped a show on distracted driving and encouraged victims to come be in the audience. I got no response from the taping tickets contact about how to find out in advance when the show would be aired. I had trouble finding a schedule on her website so I called our local TV station that airs her show, Channel 10 (which has been very diligent for years in covering this issue on the news). The woman I talked to said they don't even get as much advance notice as is on Oprah's site. I finally found it on her site and it just gives the current week. I'll check each Monday. If the show airs on a Monday, I won't be able to let anyone know. This topic has already been covered, I just learned today online, in Oprah's magazine and the radio show her friend Gayle does (I didn't know there was a radio show.)

Sentencing: The young woman who hit a man in Worthington a year ago July then left the scene was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison. The man died. She was charged with hit-skip, aggravated vehicular homicide, and tampering with evidence. They couldn't charge her with DUI because they couldn't test her within the time frame but she admitted to having been to a couple bars. They couldn't charge her with DWT because there is no such law but she admitted to using her phone. So much for the "we already have a law on the books against distracted driving." The good news is that the press are playing up the texting angle and Franklin County Common Pleas Judge David E. Cain (remember him at election time) spoke of the texting, saying DWT was like Russian roulette. One of the many necessary elements of solving this safety problem is to end the out-of-control culture of acceptance we have for this. A Columbus Dispatch editorial praised the prison sentence and condemned the DWT factor.

Thank you all for caring enough to want to be involved or at least well-informed on this safety problem. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


1 comment:

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