Daniel Gordon is wasting no time in dispelling criticisms regarding a University student’s effectiveness in city council.
Just a few months into his two-year term representing the city’s 1st Ward, the senior political science major is taking on the issue of texting while driving in what he calls his “first substantive legislation.”
Several constituents had voiced their concerns regarding the dangers of texting distractions, prompting Gordon to develop a survey to gauge further public opinion. With an online and hard copy of the poll being circulated to hundreds of city citizens, Gordon said nearly 80 percent support a ban on texting behind the wheel.
If passed, the city would join dozens of other cities with similar legislation, including Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo. While 35 states currently outlaw texting while driving, Ohio holds no state law prohibiting it, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
A previous attempt at restricting cell phone usage in vehicles failed in 2009, when a bill introduced by council member Bob McOmber was shot down by voters, Gordon said. This time the proposal would be voted on by just the seven city council members.
Gordon, a member of the Community Improvement Committee and chairman of the Transportation and Safety Committee, maintained that public feedback would be critical to the legislative process, despite no citywide vote.
Along with the preemptive survey, constituents would have the opportunity to voice support or dissent of the bill at subsequent city council meetings, he said.
Despite the preliminary support, the proposed ban already has its share of critics.
Nathan Eberly, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Wood County, said the bill would be unnecessary due to already existing driving laws regarding distractions.
“There is no additional need for regulation and laws determining texting bans and cell phone use within cars,” Eberly said.
Enforcement could also raise problems, said Eberly, also a candidate for the State House of Representatives Third District.
“One cannot really determine when somebody is texting,” he said. “The Libertarian Party stands for a very simplified code of law.”
Gordon, however, said criminalization is not the driving force behind the legislation.
“The spirit of this bill is not about punishment, it’s about education and deterrence,” he said, adding that likely punishments would be fines increasing with each violation, as is the case in other Ohio cities with such laws.
Another concern for critics is the problem of time and resources spent while enforcing the bill if it were to pass.
Potential implementations of the law, such as subpoenaing cell phone texting records, would not cost the city council anything, Gordon said.
While Eberly ideologically opposes such regulations, he approved Gordon’s willingness to listen to the concerns of his constituents.
“I definitely appreciate that process,” he said.
Regardless, the Libertarian Party will look into voicing complaints at committee hearings and beyond if the law were to be passed, Eberly said.
As Gordon continues to gather public support for his proposals, he said he looks forward to his committee hearings for the next step in the legislative process.
“It’s not about freedom, it’s about safety,” he said.
City Administrator John Fawcett could not be reached for comment.