City leaders set the record straight on distracted driving ordinance

9 months 2 weeks 1 day ago Wednesday, February 28 2018 Feb 28, 2018 Wednesday, February 28, 2018 7:17:00 PM CST February 28, 2018 in News
By: Landon Burke, KOMU 8 Anchor
loading

COLUMBIA - In December, the Columbia City Council approved a citywide ban on distracted driving. The city ordinance defines "distracted driving" as any conduct that causes a driver's vision or attention to be "obscured, diminished or directed elsewhere than the path of travel or attention of the vehicle." (Share your views on the ban.)

The city council said this can include a wide range of activities like texting, eating, putting on makeup or reading a map.

The distracted driving ban prompted a great deal of online conversation among KOMU 8 viewers, the tone of which was, by far, mostly negative.

In an effort to separate fact from fiction, KOMU 8 News sat down with two city officials behind the new ordinance: Columbia's Deputy Police Chief John Gordon and Vision Zero Program Manager Heather Cole. 

Gordon and Cole told KOMU 8 News, despite the rumors, the ordinance does not make it illegal to use a cell phone while driving.

"We've had a lot of people ask us, 'Does this ban texting and driving?"' Gordon said. "Absolutely not."

Gordon said the ordinance only comes in to play if the driver has already been pulled over for driving recklessly.

"What this says is, if you're not going to operate your vehicle within the law, and we contribute a cell phone to the reason you're not operating within the law, the judge can take this into consideration when he imposes the fine," Gordon said. "That's all this means."

Cole said, "You're not being pulled over for texting. You're not being pulled over for eating your sandwich while you're driving. You're being pulled over because you violated some other offense."

Gordon said, in order to understand the new city ordinance, it is important to understand the difference between a primary offense and a secondary offense. 

Gordon said a primary offense is a violation severe enough that a driver can be pulled over. Reckless and imprudent driving is considered a primary offense. Gordon said, if an officer sees a driver speeding up or slowing down erratically or swerving in and out of a lane, the officer has the authority to pull that driver over.

However, Columbia's distracted driving ban is considered a secondary offense, like Missouri's seat belt law. 

Police cannot pull a driver over for a secondary offense alone. However, if a driver gets pulled over for a primary offense, he or she can have a secondary violation tacked on in addition.

Gordon said the distracted driving ordinance will only be applied to drivers who have already been stopped and ticketed for reckless and imprudent driving.

Once a reckless driving citation has been issued, the officer will make a note if he or she believes the driver had been distracted at the time of the incident. If the driver is found guilty of reckless and imprudent driving in court, the municipal judge can consider offering a slightly harsher fine, based on the officer's note.

"The judge can use that to determine whether they want to increase the fines, within reason," Gordon said. "A municipal judge only has a certain scale of fine they can impose for careless and imprudent driving. But instead of a 30 or 40 dollar fine, he might up it to 50 or 60 dollars because you were using your cell phone." 

Gordon repeatedly said the ordinance does not automatically ban using a cell phone while driving.

"If somebody is quickly answering a phone call, and they're driving their car within the law, they're not breaking any laws," he said. "There's nothing to be concerned about."

Cole echoed that sentiment.

"If you are driving your car down the street, and you turn around to talk to your kids in the back seat or something like that, as long as you are maintaining the rules of the road, you're not doing anything wrong," Cole said.

The distracted driving ban is part of the city's "Vision Zero Plan" seeking to eliminate all traffic-related deaths by the year 2030.

In the last decade, there have been approximately 74 deaths and 542 serious injuries on Columbia’s roads, according to city data. 

The Missouri Department of Transportation reports 80 percent of car crashes involve some form of distracted driving.

"Basically, what we want people to know is that distracted driving is really anything that is going to divert your attention away from your main focus, which should be driving the car," Cole said.

She said anyone who is against this ordinance must not understand what it does.

"I have never come across somebody who's on board with saying, 'You shouldn't be following the rules of the road,'" Cole said.

Gordon said only time will tell how effective this new city ordinance will be at preventing distracted driving.

Cole said she is aware of several other cities that have adopted a similar distracted driving ban, and found success. However, both Cole and Gordon said the ordinance is only one part of the broader Vision Zero initiative. 

"Part of the whole Vision Zero concept is that this is a multi-disciplinary thing," Cole said. "It's an approach that, for us, includes engineering, education and enforcement."

Gordon said, because the distracted driving ban is part of a city ordinance, it can only be enforced by the Columbia Police Department and the University of Missouri Police Department.

The distracted driving ban went into effect in Columbia on December 17, 2017.

More News

Grid
List
BOONVILLE - Anyone walking around Boonville might be able to play a game of "I spy" now that painted rocks... More >>
1 hour ago Saturday, December 15 2018 Dec 15, 2018 Saturday, December 15, 2018 10:50:00 AM CST December 15, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA- High school football teams from around the state will travel to Memorial Stadium for the next five years to... More >>
2 hours ago Saturday, December 15 2018 Dec 15, 2018 Saturday, December 15, 2018 9:41:00 AM CST December 15, 2018 in Sports
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke , who's facing federal investigations into his travel, political... More >>
3 hours ago Saturday, December 15 2018 Dec 15, 2018 Saturday, December 15, 2018 8:53:00 AM CST December 15, 2018 in News
ASHLAND - The Southern Boone Area YMCA will build a new 15,714 square-foot facility in the next two years, if... More >>
4 hours ago Saturday, December 15 2018 Dec 15, 2018 Saturday, December 15, 2018 7:48:00 AM CST December 15, 2018 in News
ALTON, Ill. (AP) — Authorities are looking for a man who is suspected of fleeing to Missouri after officers shot... More >>
4 hours ago Saturday, December 15 2018 Dec 15, 2018 Saturday, December 15, 2018 7:12:00 AM CST December 15, 2018 in News
PERRYVILLE, Mo. (AP) — A former county official from southeast Missouri already in prison on a conviction of exploiting the... More >>
4 hours ago Saturday, December 15 2018 Dec 15, 2018 Saturday, December 15, 2018 7:09:52 AM CST December 15, 2018 in News
NEW BLOOMFIELD - The Holts Summit Police Department has offered to include New Bloomfield in its coverage area for the... More >>
14 hours ago Friday, December 14 2018 Dec 14, 2018 Friday, December 14, 2018 9:47:00 PM CST December 14, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- A federal judge in Texas said on Friday that the Affordable Care Act's individual coverage mandate is unconstitutional... More >>
15 hours ago Friday, December 14 2018 Dec 14, 2018 Friday, December 14, 2018 8:12:00 PM CST December 14, 2018 in News
WASHINGTON - A new report released Friday ranks Missouri 48th in the nation for tobacco use prevention programs. ... More >>
15 hours ago Friday, December 14 2018 Dec 14, 2018 Friday, December 14, 2018 8:08:00 PM CST December 14, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - The South End Zone Project at Faurot Field is just over halfway through its construction timeline and people... More >>
20 hours ago Friday, December 14 2018 Dec 14, 2018 Friday, December 14, 2018 3:46:00 PM CST December 14, 2018 in News
FULTON - Connie Cashion is the 2018 winner for the city's Jane Bierdeman-Fike Humanitarian Award. The award goes to... More >>
20 hours ago Friday, December 14 2018 Dec 14, 2018 Friday, December 14, 2018 3:16:00 PM CST December 14, 2018 in News
FULTON - A Fulton nonprofit surpassed their volunteer goal and is able to give over 400 children a Christmas miracle.... More >>
21 hours ago Friday, December 14 2018 Dec 14, 2018 Friday, December 14, 2018 2:52:00 PM CST December 14, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - State Auditor Nicole Galloway will join the investigation into Josh Hawley's use of funds during his Senate... More >>
21 hours ago Friday, December 14 2018 Dec 14, 2018 Friday, December 14, 2018 2:44:00 PM CST December 14, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Students walking around MU's famous Quad may have seen an unexpected visitor Thursday. MU student Massimo Montalbano... More >>
22 hours ago Friday, December 14 2018 Dec 14, 2018 Friday, December 14, 2018 1:50:00 PM CST December 14, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - The scooter company Lime announced it has taken its scooters out of Columbia for the immediate future. ... More >>
22 hours ago Friday, December 14 2018 Dec 14, 2018 Friday, December 14, 2018 1:49:00 PM CST December 14, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- Nearly 40,000 people in the United States died by guns last year, marking the highest number of gun... More >>
22 hours ago Friday, December 14 2018 Dec 14, 2018 Friday, December 14, 2018 1:22:00 PM CST December 14, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - The number of homeless people living in Boone County has increased in the past 10 years, according to... More >>
23 hours ago Friday, December 14 2018 Dec 14, 2018 Friday, December 14, 2018 12:52:00 PM CST December 14, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- Johnson & Johnson's ( JNJ ) stock fell as much as 11% on Friday — on track for... More >>
1 day ago Friday, December 14 2018 Dec 14, 2018 Friday, December 14, 2018 11:46:00 AM CST December 14, 2018 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 45°
12pm 47°
1pm 50°
2pm 52°
3pm 53°