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Akron Council considering texting-while-driving law

1/17/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

During the coming weeks, Akron City Council will consider voting on legislation that would make it a primary offense to compose, read or send text messages or access the Internet on mobile devices while driving in the city.

The ordinance, sponsored by Councilmen Michael Williams (D-at large) and Donnie Kammer (D-Ward 7), is modeled partly after Cincinnati’s ordinance banning texting while driving and partly after the state of Ohio’s ban on texting while driving.

It is intended to make drivers “more mindful of driving and the potential things that can happen,” said Williams, who added that a vehicle can become a “lethal weapon” when under operation.

Council is taking time on the legislation and will vote on it at a future meeting.

The state law makes it a secondary offense to text while driving. The new Akron law, if enacted, would make it a primary offense, meaning the offending driver could be pulled over if an officer observes texting while driving, whether or not a primary offense is taking place.

The penalty for texting while driving would be more stringent for minors than for adults — a fine of $150 and a license suspension for 60 days upon the first offense, and a fine of $300 and a year’s suspension on the second offense. For drivers older than 18, the offense would net a fine on first offense and a license suspension and fine upon the second offense. The driver would be convicted of a minor misdemeanor.

Also at the meeting, Council:

• approved the redevelopment plan for the Mull/Frank Redevelopment Area, which will allow the city to assist in a project to expand the West Akron campus of FirstEnergy. Council approved in November a rezoning for the construction of a 70,000-square-foot transmission control center. The expansion is anticipated to be complete in December 2014 and create up to 150 new full-time positions. Council also approved Jan. 14 a development agreement with Ohio Edison and American Transmission Systems Inc. for the project;

• heard from Council President Garry Moneypenny (D-Ward 10) that the following committee changes have been made upon the addition of Margo Sommerville as the new Ward 3 Council member: Sommerville will replace Councilman Mike Freeman (D-Ward 9) as chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, and Jim Hurley will become vice chair; Sommerville will replace Councilman Russel Neal (D-Ward 4) as member of the Public Utilities Committee, and Williams will become vice chair; Sommerville will replace Freeman on the Parks and Recreation Committee; and Kammer will replace Neal on the Public Safety Committee and Councilman Ken Jones (D-Ward 5) will become vice chair; and

• set a public hearing on the 2013 capital budget. The proposed amount for this year’s capital budget is $218 million. The public hearing will take place at the Jan. 28 Council meetings.

Due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, Council will not meet Jan. 21. The next Akron City Council meeting will take place Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal building, 166 S. High St. Committee meetings are set to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.

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