Urbana to consider ban on drivers’ phone use

By K. Lamorris Waller

Monday evening, Urbana City Council members will be discussing the potential ban on cell phone use while driving.

Although the language and proposed consequences have yet to be determined, Urbana is considering this ban to cut down on distracted drivers around campus and the greater Urbana community.

On Sept. 2, 2006, a distracted driver downloading ring tones to her cell phone struck 25-year-old Matthew Wilhelm, who was riding his bike on a highway exit ramp and died six days later.

However, without laws and regulations clearly stating what “distracted driving” was, the driver was charged with an improper lane change and issued a $1,000 fine.

Charlie Smyth, Ward 1, compared driving while using a cell phone to driving while under the influence. He said that driving while on a cell phone puts drivers in a situation where their focus is no longer on the road.

In certain counties, Illinois has laws against the use of cell phones for all drivers, including school bus drivers and drivers under the age of 19 with a permit or state driver’s license.

Council members are only discussing the new ordinance and will not be making a final ruling until all details have been presented, said Robert Lewis, Ward 3.

One issue in dealing with the potential ban is where the boundary will be with the enforcement of the law between Champaign and Urbana. Another factor will be the ban’s implementation. Lynne Barnes, Ward 7, said the ordinance is premature and still needs plenty of time to develop.

“Since there’s a difference between the two cities in their laws, we have to make sure people are aware of and educated about the new law if it were to go into effect,” she said.