Friday, March 12, 2010

Respected DWT-ban activist Sharon Montgomery continues her reports for Bexley Public Radio.

Montgomery discusses proposed Ohio legislation with WCRX-LP, 102.1 FM at Bexley lunch spot.

Last Monday, a student from Gahanna Lincoln High School's excellent TV class taped an interview with me and we had a very interesting conversation. He believes students would support a local ordinance in Gahanna to restrict Driving While Texting. Apparently some students are willing to have external controls on this behavior in lieu of the self-control that perhaps is simply more than they can muster, given their culture.

I gave him some information on what other high schools are doing in the way of safety rallies and "taking the pledge" rallies and suggested the annual spring health fair at his school might be a good place to spread the safety word. I will try to follow up with the TV and health teachers.

Tuesday. the House public safety and homeland security committee amended HB 415 then voted unanimously to recommend it to the full House.

The changes are that "using an electronic wireless communication device to write, send, or read a text-based communication" replaces "text messaging on a mobile communication device."

Five more exemptions were added to allow: entering data to make or receive a phone call; receiving messages about navigation, vehicle operation, or safety/emergency/traffic/weather info.; receiving wireless messages via radio waves; using a device for navigation; using a device that doesn't require manually entering data; and for truckers to use mobile data terminals.

I understand the need to be as clear as possible on what is and isn't allowed but the other side of that coin is that the functionality of these devices changes so fast, that we'll never keep up if we try to include and exclude every specific function. I understand that the intent of this bill is to restrict only texting and e-mailing and not phoning but to specifically allow actions to make or get a phone call disturbs me. It's one step closer to giving the wrong impression that phone calls are safe. But overall the bill is a giant step forward. Wednesday, the bill was placed on the House calendar. I don't know yet when they will have third reading and vote on it but you can bet I'll be in the gallery when they do!

Later Tuesday, Columbus city council safety committee heard the public on the proposed ordinance to restrict sending/reading/writing a text message or accessing the internet. It is a minor misdemeanor and exempts using the device to "report a health or safety emergency" or "in the course of the driver's duties while operating an emergency or public safety vehicle."

The committee, city attorney, and assistant safety director listened attentively and asked questions. Tom Whiteman, another Columbus resident and I were the only individuals who spoke. Tom Whiteman has been very involved in local and state DWT hearings. His daughter was killed in 2008 by a distracted driver.

I was surprised by the low attendance and I had expected a larger turnout.

Mayor Michael Coleman and the majority of city council support the DWT ban. They are clearly open to learning as much as they can. The next public hearing will be Tuesday March 30. The Safety Director's assistant (a different person than the city’s assistant safety director) gave us his card and encouraged us to send any additional information to him. I will be checking to find out what, of all the information I have, they think will be useful.

I will probably speak again on the March 30 city council hearing. We only get three minutes so the only information I’ve presented so far is why we need a law and can't rely on common sense, personal responsibility, education alone, or even existing "inattentive driving" laws. Depending on what information the council needs, I will probably speak on March 30 about enforcement and penalties.

The press has given the Columbus proposal great coverage before and after. That's what we need: visibility, visibility, visibility. One news report "promoted" me from "Sharon Montgomery, whose husband died..." to "noted local activist Sharon Montgomery!"

Next Wednesday evening is a Pickerington city council safety committee meeting. They hope a lot of citizens will attend and discuss the DWT proposal. I'll be there addressing individual member's concerns. Tom Whiteman plans to come and speak. I don't have the specific date yet for Hilliard's safety committee meeting.

Like the Columbus city council, these suburban councils are making a strong effort to be well informed.

Sharon Montgomery.

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Design is copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Bexley Public Radio Foundation. Text is copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Sharon Montgomery.

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