Proposed ban long overdue

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The Denton City Council has agreed to move ahead with a ban on texting and driving, and we believe such a measure is long overdue.

We would prefer that motorists had enough common sense to avoid such dangerous behavior so that no ban would be needed, but clearly, many drivers do not.

Perhaps we could solve the problem if area drivers read newspaper articles pointing out how dangerous it is to text and drive or took note of the many other types of news reports that continually warn of us of such behavior.

Unfortunately, as experience tells us, you can present such information any number of times, but you can’t make people pay attention.

Council members agreed Tuesday to move ahead with a ban on texting and driving and directed city staff members to come up with a broad definition for “texting” before drafting the final ordinance.

Council members said they would prefer the ordinance have a broad definition for texting, so that someone checking e-mail or using social media would be included.

Mark Nelson, the city’s director of transportation, brought additional information and research to the council discussion.

A recent online survey of residents through EngageDenton.com showed mixed feelings in the community about an outright ban on wireless handheld devices. A total of 336 people voted in the poll, with 190 in favor of a ban and 146 against.

Some of the comments showed residents wondering about being able to use a GPS device and similar concerns, although there was general agreement about texting.

“Texting and driving is considered the new drunk driving,” Nelson said.

However, statistics from the police department’s investigation of vehicle accidents over the past three years show that plenty of other things were distracting drivers, from adjusting the radio, to picking up an item, to the family dog.

Wow, these people are busier behind the wheel than they are at the office. What happened to that old axiom about hands firmly placed on the steering wheel and eyes straight ahead?

The council waffled initially on moving forward with a ban on all handheld devices, indicating it might not be sufficient in light of all the ways Denton drivers have been distracted recently.

The initial recommendation for a ban on all handhelds would have made a ban more readily enforceable, but a ban on texting wasn’t without precedent, Nelson said, pointing to a similar ordinance in Arlington.

Denton was among cities that banned the use of cellphones in school zones before the Texas Legislature made it state law in 2009. The Legislature went on to pass a statewide ban on texting and driving in 2011, but Gov. Rick Perry vetoed it.

It was unclear Tuesday when Denton’s ordinance banning texting and driving would come back to the council for a final vote, but the council also asked for an awareness campaign to accompany it.

Good luck with that, city staff members. Considering how distracted local drivers seem to be, you may have difficulty getting them to notice.


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