Cleveland City Council considers tougher cell phone driving law

CLEVELAND - Cleveland City Council will consider whether to make it illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving without a hands-free device.

City Councilman Zack Reed introduced the legislation at council Monday night that would make it a primary offense, meaning an officer need only see you with your phone pressed to your ear while driving to pull you over.

"What we see as a convenience to use is now becoming a deadly weapon in our vehicles," said Reed, pointing to figures that show Cuyahoga County leads the state in distracted driving crashes.

"The distracted driving accidents that have occurred here in Cuyahoga County far exceed those in the state of Ohio, more than Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo combined," Reed said.

Fines would be $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second and $500 for the third.

"This is not about the fines that we may collect. This is about saying to the people that you need to hang up and you need to slow down," said Reed.

According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, between 2009 and 2011, there were 31,231 crashes in Ohio related to distracted driving. Of those, about a third were in Northeast Ohio.

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, 75 percent of U.S. drivers, ages 18 to 29, reported they talked on their cell phone while driving in the past 30 days and 40 percent said they do it regularly.

Cleveland previously made texting while driving illegal. The neighboring community of Brooklyn was the first in the country to make holding a phone and driving illegal. Since then, 10 states followed, including New York, New Jersey, California, Connecticut and Maryland.

The legislation will now be sent to the city's law director for review before being referred to committee in city council. If approved, Reed said it would go into effect Jan. 1, 2013.

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