Urbana to vote on cell phone ordinance

By Eric Heisig

Local drivers may need to be aware of what they are doing when traveling on Urbana streets, especially if they are on their cell phone.

The city of Urbana’s Committee of the Whole voted Monday night to move an ordinance to restrict cell phone use while driving. The ordinance, which will be voted on next week, will fine people using a cell phone when they get into an accident. Currently, the maximum amount the city of Urbana can fine is $750.

In addition, if passed, the city of Urbana will be conducting a survey of the amount of accidents caused by cell phone usage. In order to determine a correlation, the Urbana Police Department will determine whether a cell phone was the cause of individual accidents and assess the fine and keep records of it.

The ordinance was drafted by acting city attorney Ronald O’Neal Jr., who said his intentions were to make the language as clear as possible in order to not cause any bending or miscommunications about the law.

While the Council did pass the motion to move it to a final vote, there were reservations about the timing of the ordinance. Ward 6 Council member Heather Stevenson expressed concern because the law would go into effect on July 1, two weeks after the ordinance would be passed. She said there would not be adequate time to educate the public about the new ordinance. In addition, she said the study should be done first before passing an ordinace.

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“If the study shows an increase, then we can enforce the fine,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson said she also believes the issue of cell phones and driving is a matter for the state of Illinois, and not individual cities.

Other Items Discussed

The Committee voted to move an ordinance that would amend alcoholic beverages section of the code of ordinances, which would lower the cost of permits for some restaurants whose primary revenue does not come from the sale of alcohol.

The Committee also passed an ordinance that would rename “Riverrock Drive” to “River Rock Drive,” and an a remnant of Frontage Road in the Southeast quadrant of Lincoln Avenue and I-74 to “Kenyon Road.”