Battle Creek could pass distracted driving ordinance

    Battle Creek could pass distracted driving ordinance in February. (WWMT/File - MGN)

    Battle Creek City Commissioner Katee Faris asked fellow commissioners Tuesday to consider an ordinance that would more clearly define distracted driving.

    The ordinance was approved for a vote during the first Battle Creek City Commission meeting in February. If approved it could go into effect ten days later.

    The ordinance was inspired by bike riders, like Amber Deal and James Wilson.

    "We ride all over the place," Deal said. "You could ask really anybody. They'll tell you they see us all over."

    Deal and Wilson are always on the lookout for is distracted driving, something many are guilty of doing at some point in time, which often results in life threatening situations like the one Deal faced recently.

    "I don't know if he was on his phone or what, but he actually hit me," Deal said. "It makes me pay attention more, because I see these people not paying attention to me. You know, I might have the right of way, and they could turn the corner, and hit me, because they're too busy on their phones."

    Over the last few years, bike-vehicle collisions that appeared to be the result of distracted driving gave the Battle Creek Bicycle Advisory Committee the idea to push for a distracted driving ordinance. Now that ordinance is being introduced to the city commission.

    "You know, we really don't have a lot of control over what people do in their vehicles, but sometimes it takes something like this to send a message to people in Battle Creek, that they need to be very aware," City Manager Rebecca Fleury said.

    Michigan law prohibits texting and driving, but can be hard to enforce. The ordinance Battle Creek has to consider would take the definition of distracted driving a step further, as City Attorney Jill Steele describes, "while a car is in motion, having to handle it and talk on it," would also be prohibited.

    Talking into a mounted phone or through a car speaker would still be permissible, with the goal of keeping hands on steering wheels and eyes on the road. It's something Deal can get behind.

    "I think that would probably be the best thing is to have it a law not to be on your phone at all," she said. "You know, it might not stop them completely, but i think it would make them a lot more cautious."

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