Kent weighs ban on cell use while driving

Sarah McGrath

City would be first in Portage County

Kent City Council unanimously passed a motion Sept. 17 to begin discussing legislation banning the use of cell phones while driving within city limits.

Councilman John Kuhar made the motion at the end of Wednesday’s meeting and said he hopes the council will be able to pass an ordinance as soon as possible.

“It is a simple thing that could help a lot of people,” said Kuhar.

If the city council were to pass the ordinance, Kent would be the first major city within Portage County to do so. Aurora, Streetsboro, Tallmadge and Ravenna do not have any ordinances banning the use of cell phones while driving.

Kuhar’s motion came just a day before the Transport Research Laboratory released a new study indicating that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The study showed that drivers who sent or read text messages slowed their reaction time by 35 percent, compared with those driving while high on marijuana, whose reaction time slowed by 21 percent, and those driving under the influence of alcohol, whose reaction time slowed by only 12 percent.

Researchers, who examined young drivers between the ages of 17 and 24, also found that steering control decreased by 91 percent for those drivers who were distracted by text messaging.

Judy Smith, owner of the Professional Typing Services on South Lincoln Street, said she would support a new ordinance banning cell phones while driving, should city council

pass one.

“You see too many people fiddling around with a cell phone, thinking that they have to answer it,” said Smith. “I carry one, but I won’t use it while I am driving. I will get off the road and park the car if I have to answer it.”

The Governors Highway Safety Association reported California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Washington are the only states to have enacted a law banning the use of cell phones while driving. The District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have passed a similar law. New Jersey and Washington, along with Alaska, Louisiana and Minnesota, have enacted a text-messaging ban for all drivers.

Dominick Grassi, a 22-year-old Kent State student, said he does talk on his cell phone while driving but thinks that the ban would be a good idea.

“I think they should, at the very least, ban text messaging while driving,” said Grassi.

Kuhar said that he thinks the majority of residents in Kent will support the ordinance.

“From the comments that I have heard, a lot of people will be behind it,” said Kuhar.

Contact public affairs reporter Sarah McGrath at [email protected].