To the editor:
Should it be illegal to use a cell phone while driving in Lawrence? This was discussed at the October meeting of the city's Traffic Safety Commission (TSC). Letters and an editorial in the Journal-World indicate there is some public confusion. As a TSC member, I'd like to clarify things. First, the TSC only makes recommendations about traffic safety. The elected city commissioners are free to accept or ignore our advice. Only the City Commission can enact or change laws.
The proposal for a ban did not originate with the TSC. Like many proposals, it came from a city resident. To make a recommendation, TSC members read and listen to comments from the public and professional traffic engineers. For every proposal, we try to find answers for two big questions: Is there a traffic or safety problem? Will the proposed solution work as intended?
Research does indicate that cell phone use by drivers is a safety hazard. The two people who spoke at the meeting agreed. Would a city ban work? To begin to answer that question, we need legal details. How would a ban be worded? The TSC postponed further discussion until we get that information from the city's legal department.
Other questions remain: Is the problem better addressed at the state level? Would enforcement create difficulties for police? As with seat belt use, education is essential. Would a ban help or hinder that effort? No decisions have been made. There's still plenty of opportunity for public comment.