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The city of Lake Forest has decided to take a wait-and-see attitude on enacting a local ordinance on the use of cellphones and electronic devices while driving.
At its Feb. 21 City Council meeting, a lack of consensus among the eight aldermen resulted in a 4-4 tie vote on first reading. Mayor James Cowhey voted to break the tie with a “no,” since the Illinois General Assembly is considering an expansion of the state cellphone law, which requires hands-free-only use in school and construction zones.
“We are talking about first reading, not final approval,” said Cowhey. “I say wait for the state’s (action) to come back.”
In December, Lake Bluff chose to not take any action in favor of waiting to see if Lake Forest would enact an ordinance.
The Lake Forest ordinance could have stayed the same and followed state law, or it could have been expanded to allow only hands-free use. A third distracted driving option would have covered “anything besides driving a car,” though council members at the last meeting didn’t feel that was a viable option.
- See related story: Lake Forest Begins Preliminary Look at Distracted Driving Ordinance
Alderman Michael Adelman said his support of an ordinance had nothing to do with whether the city made any revenue.
“No value can be put on loss of life,” he said. “We’re talking about the health, safety and welfare of the constituents. Whether police enforce it, we have a deterrent to save a life or preclude a permanent disability, so I’m still in favor of it.”
Alderman Kent Novit said the term distractions should be broadened.
“Certainly we all have concerns for safety, but if we’re going to look at this issue, why not do it to all potential distractions while driving based on logic?” asked Alderman Kent Novit.
Alderman Catherine Waldeck had several objections to the ordinance, but was most bothered by more intrusion in people’s lives.
“I understand the arguments in favor of this ordinance, and they’re good arguments, but what I keep coming back to here, but can’t get over, is we’re taking normal acceptable behavior — talking on a cellphone — and making it not acceptable,” she said. “We’re doing more than making it criminal, we’re punishing it. We can’t equate distracted driving with driving under the influence.
“We’re passing a law that’s going to govern something people do every day,” she added. “It seems too intrusive to me. It’s too big-brotherish. I don’t think people want government involvement in their lives. It’s not what people want, and I don’t think it’s the best use of our police force’s time.”
Alderman Robert Palmer said his support of an ordinance came from personal experience.
“The reality is my brother-in-law was hit head-on by someone talking (on the phone) and went across the line,” he said. “It’s a serious matter. It’s not a matter of personal convenience.”