Proposed cell phone driving ban advisable

This week the Urbana City Council indicated that it was willing to consider adopting a ban on talking on a cell phone while driving. While the language isn’t final yet, Urbana would be right to take a practical step to cut down on distracted motorists.

It is undeniable that our full attention is not on the road when we try to remember the answer to that homework problem or what time we were supposed to meet someone. For many, it’s a bad habit that results in close calls. But not so for pedestrian Matt Wilhelm, a University student at the time he was hit and killed by a driver downloading a ring tone in 2006.

However, should an ordinance pass, Urbana should make strong efforts to publicize the rule change. While it would certainly be confusing enough to suddenly be in violation of the law as you travel east across Wright Street, it would be far worse for visitors to the area including parents, alumni and sports fans.

To help those people, as well as students and Urbana residents, there should be a period to phase the ordinance in.

Warnings can be issued for first time offenders, and signs reminding passing drivers traveling on major routes into the city and approaching Wright Street can be posted.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    Additionally, Urbana can work with the University administration to make sure that current students are aware of the new ordinance. One way would be to integrate awareness in freshman orientation materials and making sure University Housing, the greek system and local landlords make their residents aware of the policy, especially around lease-signing season.

    But one thing that will not be welcomed is a cell phone ban being used as a way for the city of Urbana to establish a steady revenue source from unsuspecting drivers going in a no-cellphone trap.

    The details of the ordinance, especially those that could affect local businesses that rely on constant communication, deserve careful consideration. But the overall push to cut down on drivers being distracted by talking, text messaging and downloading is a cause worth pursuing.

    And even though the focus is on drivers at the moment, pedestrians, including a large number of students, should also take this opportunity to reassess how much attention they pay to oncoming traffic when they head to and from class. The last thing this community needs is to deal with another senseless and preventable death.

    So heed the call for safety, whether you’re driving or walking near traffic. In other words, let it go to voicemail.