Practically everyone understands the harm in texting while driving. Tapping a message means eyes averted from the road, and an increased risk of an accident. So, it follows logically that the Akron City Council is weighing legislation, proposed by Michael Williams and Donnie Kammer, to make texting behind the wheel a primary offense for drivers of all ages.
The state already has moved in this direction, a new law taking effect at the end of August. Worth attention is that state lawmakers made the offense secondary, law enforcement officers applying the texting ban if they stop drivers for another offense. Lawmakers took that step, in part, because of concerns about a potential for abuse.
The worry is legitimate. How would police officers enforce the law? They might see the glow of a cellphone screen in the car. Is the driver on a call? Or using a tool for navigation? Or texting? That factor of uncertainty serves as an invitation for possible trouble, a fudge factor that leads to officers stopping drivers for no good reason.
That isn’t a risk the Akron Police Department or the city needs. Deep problems of trust already exist in some neighborhoods, residents and officers carrying heavy suspicions. The department has been working to improve relations. Hard to see how that important effort would be helped when an officer jumps to the wrong conclusion about a driver and his or her cellphone.
After multiple incidents, word spreading, the building of trust becomes more difficult.
True enough, the proposed legislation is modeled on an ordinance enacted in Cincinnati in 2010. Better for council members to examine precisely how it is working there. Closer to home, it was dismaying to learn the sponsors of the legislation had not consulted Akron police or the city prosecutor.
Again, there is good reason to discourage texting while driving. At the same time, this proposal belongs in a broader context. The city and police department face a larger challenge in fighting crime and violence. The City Council needs to make sure it gets the texting legislation right.