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Lake Bluff Will Let Lake Forest Take Lead on Cellphone Ordinance

Village president believes ordinance creates "undue burden, unrealistic" for drivers going from town to town.

will take its cue from the on the issue of distracted driving, choosing to wait for its neighbors to the south to act before doing so itself.

Lake Forest is expected to begin discussion of the issue when the Lake Forest City Council convenes after the holidays in January. Lake Forest Police Chief Joe Buerger has said he will present two ordinances — one focused strictly on cellphone use and one on distracted driving.

The issue appeared on Lake Bluff’s Committee of the Whole agenda two weeks ago after talks between Lake Bluff Village Administrator Drew Irvin and Lake Forest City Manager Bob Kiely. Kiely indicated the city was going to be looking at an ordinance, which prompted Irvin to engage the Village Board on the subject.

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Five North Shore communities already have passed bans on hand-held cellphone use in the car, including Evanston, Winnetka, Glencoe, Highland Park and the latest in Deerfield. If Lake Forest were to adopt a similar ordinance, Lake Bluff would be the next community in line.

At Monday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting, there are some division on the Village Board over whether an ordinance is needed or not. Village President Christine Letchinger believes this is a state issue, and that a local ordinance is not enforceable.

“I think it’s a bit of an over-reach,” Letchinger said. “I understand the need to educate people. I spend two hours in my car every day and people do everything in their car. They shave, they put on makeup, they eat. It’s amazing, actually, there are not more accidents. But if  I get stopped because I failed to know that in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff you’re not supposed to drive and talk on your phone, I think it’s an undue burden and unrealistic, and it’s really going to make people mad.”

Letchinger said she would rather join forces with other municipalities in an education campaign to warn people of the dangers of cellphone use in the car, especially with teen drivers.

“Something that is more educational as opposed to an ordinance that is complicated to enforce,” Letchinger said. “Putting something on the book that cannot be enforced is problematic and makes a joke of the law in the long run.”

However, Trustee Kathy O’Hara believes the problem warrants an ordinance, especially if Lake Forest adopts one.

“I would like to see it enacted,” O’Hara said. “We all agree that talking on the cellphone is a distraction. It does cause problems. It is inconsistent that you go from one town that has an ordinance and one that doesn’t. I understand that. I’m not for a lot of rules that you can’t enforce, and again, I see this as long-term. I think cellphone use in the car is wrong. It does potentially cause problems.”

Lake Bluff Police Chief Bill Gallagher told the Village Board at the previous Committee of the Whole meeting that he would prefer to see a law come from the state or county. However, if the board chose to pass an ordinance, he would support it, but side on educating the public rather than using it as a ticket revenue producer as the other North Shore law enforcement agencies have done.

O’Hara believes an ordinance would send a message, especially to younger drivers who have grown up using cellphones.

“We need to send the message that this is unsafe,” O’Hara said. “I see more benefits from an ordinance than negatives. Driving is a privilege, not a right.”

Trustee Brian Rener believes there is merit in waiting to see how Lake Forest addresses the issue because it will give the Village Board more information with which to work.

“Let’s see how they enforce it,” he said. “Let’s see what kind of feedback they get from the community. Lessons learned. We’ll have all the data. We can decide at that time if it’s been worth it.”

e south to act before doing so itself.

Lake Forest is expected to begin discussion of the issue when the Lake Forest City Council convenes after the holidays in January. Lake Forest Police Chief Joe Buerger has said he will present two ordinances – one which focuses strictly on cell phone use and one on distracted driving.

The issue appeared on Lake Bluff’s Committee of the Whole agenda two weeks ago following talks between Lake Bluff Village Administrator Drew Irvin and Lake Forest City Manager Bob Kiely. Kiely indicated the city was going to be looking at an ordinance, which prompted Irvin to engage the Village Board on the subject.

  • See related story:

Currently, five North Shore communities have already passed bans on hand-held cell phone use in the car, including Evanston, Winnetka, Glencoe, Highland Park and the latest in Deerfield. If Lake Forest were to adopt a similar ordinance, Lake Bluff would be the next community in line.

At Monday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting, there are some division on the Village Board over whether an ordinance is needed or not. Village President Christine Letchinger believes this is a state issue, and that a local ordinance is not enforceable.

“I think it’s a bit of an over-reach,” Letchinger said. “I understand the need to educate people. I spend two hours in my car every day and people do everything in their car. They shave, they put on makeup, they eat. It’s amazing actually there are not more accidents. But if  I get stopped because I failed to know that in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff you’re not supposed to drive and talk on your phone, I think it’s an undue burden and unrealistic, and it’s really going to make people mad.”

Letchinger said she would rather join forces with other municipalities in an education campaign warning people of the dangers of cell phone use in the car, especially with teen drivers.

“Something that is more educational as opposed to an ordinance that is complicated to enforce,” Letchinger said. “Putting something on the book that cannot be enforced is problematic and makes a joke of the law in the long run.”

However, trustee Kathy O’Hara believes the problem warrants an ordinance especially if Lake Forest adopts one.

“I would like to see it enacted,” O’Hara said. “We all agree that talking on the cell phone is a distraction. It does cause problems. It is inconsistent that you go from one town that has an ordinance and one that doesn’t. I understand that. I’m not for a lot of rules that you can’t enforce, and again, I see this as long term. I think cell phone use in the car is wrong. It does potentially cause problems.”

Lake Bluff Police Chief Bill Gallagher told the village board at the previous Committee of the Whole meeting that he would prefer to see a law come from the state or county. However, if the board chose to pass an ordinance, he would support it, but side on educating the public rather than use it as a ticket revenue producer as the other North Shore law enforcement agencies have done.

O’Hara believes an ordinance would send a message, especially to younger drivers who have grown up using cell phones.

“We need to send the message that this is unsafe,” O’Hara said. “I see more benefits from an ordinance than negatives. Driving is a privilege, not a right.”

Trustee Brian Rener believes there is merit in waiting to see how Lake Forest addresses the issue because it will give the Village Board more information to work with.

“Let’s see how they enforce it,” he said. “Let’s see what kind of feedback they get from the community. Lessons learned. We’ll have all the data. We can decide at that time if it’s been worth it.”

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