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Posted on Mon, Mar 15, 2010 : 8:45 p.m.

Ann Arbor City Council postpones vote on cell phone ban

By David Jesse

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It will be another two weeks at least before Ann Arbor City Council members get a chance to vote on a new ordinance banning the use of cell phones while driving.

City Council Member Stephen Rapundalo, D-2nd Ward, the sponsor of the measure, asked council to postpone a vote scheduled for Monday night while some revisions are made around the issue of two-way radios.

He told council members that the revisions would not change the spirit of the proposed ordinance.

The vote to postpone the action was 8-1 with Marcia Higgins voting against the measure.

The City Council in February approved the first reading of a new city ordinance that would impose a $125 fine on people ticketed for using cell phones and similar devices while driving or bicycling.

The ordinance bans motorists and bicyclists in Ann Arbor from using "any device" to do any of the following:

* Talk to or listen to another person. * Create, send, transmit, read or listen to a text message, verbal message, oral message or electronic message. * Leave a recorded message. * Create, send, transmit, review, read a map or other image, whether or not the image or map includes or is accompanied by written or oral messages. * Use the Internet.

Police hope to make using a cell phone a primary offense, meaning officers can pull someone over for it. The offense would be a $125 ticket. The fine would go up to $300 if an accident were involved.

The council held a brief public hearing on the proposed ordinance Monday night. Two speakers, including Nancy Merdzinski, the executive officer of the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors, presented concerns.

Merdzinski said her organization had voted to oppose the measure earlier this month for several reasons, including the fact that members believe it is an issue better addressed at the state level. She said having a local ordinance would be “unfriendly and unwelcoming to visitors.”

The public hearing will be continued in two weeks. A vote could take place then as well.

Later in the evening, City Council Member Tony Derezinski pointed out several other communities have passed similar bans.

David Jesse covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.



Tue, Apr 20, 2010 : 7:04 a.m.

i am a bike rider and i have had near misses with drivers on cellphones and just walking i have had close calls and i have seen at stoplights cars honking at others who r on cell phones the ban would do good,,


Mon, Mar 22, 2010 : 2:39 p.m.

@tax: Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your good points. Also, my original post was in response to others arguments which might not be yours. First, you misread my argument. I claim that one should enact a good law even if it doesnt fix everything, but you argue that I believe that one should enact a beneficial law without weighing the costs. In other words, I say wash a dirty car even if the car wont get completely clean, but you argue that I believe that one should wash the car even if its a little dirty. Of course, you need to weigh the pros and cons of each idea you presented. Radios: You might have a point, but you compare the most complex item on the radio with the most benign conversation. If you compare averages, I would bet a conversation is more distracting. Do I have proof? No, but I heard about studies while driving and listening to the radio. About your last comment, I can still appreciate an argument that is supported by evidence even if I don't believe the report's premises or conclusions.


Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 8:21 a.m.

It's unfortunate that the proposed ordinance combines reasonable prohibitions (banning texting while driving) with those that many reasonable people would consider absurd (using a hands free GPS device that announces directions). Perhaps the sponsors of the ordinance would receive a better response to a more focused approach.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 8:37 a.m.

As a comuter into Ann Arbor on an almost daily basis, I refrain from using my cell phone while driving most of the time. What ever happened to common sense? There are peoples lives at stake while driving a hunk of steel/plastic at any speed. A simple ban on texting and requiring the use of a hands free device would be more appropriate than what has been proposed here. Have you ever used your cell phone to help someone or call 911? I have. Some devises as the navagation equipment make it safer to drive. Many people have this as a feature of their phone and use it to find many things, once again use common sense. I am sure the police, EMT's and such all have these in their vehicles for safety and navagation reasons, what about us?

Chrysta Cherrie

Tue, Mar 16, 2010 : 6:47 p.m.

The discussion in this story is getting a little heated, so I just wanted to remind everyone to keep the comments civil. More on that here:


Tue, Mar 16, 2010 : 3:37 p.m.

What about only allowing hands free devices? Allowing only Bluetooths? If this ordinance passes as is, I'll certainly note who voted how on the ordinance. And, what about those GPS Screens? Magnitudes a much bigger distraction than a bluetooth conversation. Plus, they produce blind spots in the windshield. What about our police officers looking at a computer screen in their vehicles, while driving (often at above posted speeds), trying to pull someone over? What about people who are constantly channel surfing their radio stations? Or mothers with screaming children in the backseat? Are we to ban driving around with fussy children? What about driving with a dog moving from front seat to back seat in the car? Please council and mayor, do the right thing, re-think this ordinance. There has got to be some way to come up with a hands free type ordinance, some type of compromise.


Tue, Mar 16, 2010 : 10:21 a.m.

Summary and refutation of arguments against the ban: Big Brother: A regulated society isn't the Iron Curtain. Driving will still be dangerous: True, but some progress is still progress. GPS is like map: Do you type on your map for the nearest restaurant? Phone is like radio: 2-way communication is more concentrated listening...especially when 2nd party isn't in car. The only reasonable comment is Shooter's link to an Insurance Board Study. I didn't read it, but at least it's information.


Tue, Mar 16, 2010 : 9:35 a.m.

In some states it is illegal to drive barefoot, with dogs on your lap, and reading maps, mail, or books. The idea that if you can't use a GPS device people will spread a map out in front of them while driving is ridiculous. First of all Michigan roads aren't smooth enough to allow your eyes to focus on that small print. I'm still a believer in use a cell phone while driving, go to jail and increased auto insurance costs for cell phone users.


Tue, Mar 16, 2010 : 8:44 a.m.

I would like to know what is so important that you have to drive and talk on your cell phone? Why not just pull over to the side and chat? It wasn't so long ago that we didn't have cell phones and we managed to communicate. As for texting and driving....DANGEROUS! Make your car a no phone zone.


Tue, Mar 16, 2010 : 8:31 a.m.

I got into an accident once because some old man was reading his mail (like regular snail mail) while he was driving. He turned right in front of me without looking. I got into another accident because some lady thought it would be awesome to eat jelly donuts while she was barefoot, driving with her Jack Russell Terrier on her lap. I got into another accident when some guy was looking at something out of his window and hit me. Kind of funny that one person gets in 3 accidents that aren't her fault and none of them involved cell phones. My proposal is to ban food, paper, and dogs in the car. The driver must also be wearing shoes and all roads need to be like 696 where they have tall walls so you can't sight see while you drive.


Tue, Mar 16, 2010 : 8:24 a.m.

Thie is exactly the role of government, to protect the citizenry against dangers whenever reasonable and possible. The proposed law is not strict enough. I'd like to see $1000 fines for cell phone talking or texting. Studies have shown these elective behaviors are akin to drunk driving. To those who claim that cell phone use is as dangerous as X, Y or Z, then show me some studies. If warranted, then lets ban them, too. This seems to be a no-brainer and I can't figure out why so many are against it. It's about safety, so quit being so self-absorbed.

Eric D

Tue, Mar 16, 2010 : 7:47 a.m.

City Council needs to pass this Ordinance. If for no other reason, just to protect those of us who park and talk from those who insist that they can multi-task while driving. Maybe we need to add a provision, that includes putting on make-up, shaving and reading a good book or newspaper. In my thirty years of commuting I have seen them all. Vote yes!


Tue, Mar 16, 2010 : 7:39 a.m.

I guess it will be illegal to use a hearing aid while in your car. Ann Arbor is clearly over their head with this action. I just hope at the next election people will vote out this ordinance, as well as these council members.


Tue, Mar 16, 2010 : 7:23 a.m.

Hey Snapshot, ever here of having your car under control? If a car is stopped at a green light doestn't mean you have to ram it, it may be waiting for the cars in front to move first!Everybody is always in a hurry nowdays. P>S> I don't use a cell phone just common sense.


Tue, Mar 16, 2010 : 7:23 a.m.

I can (almost) see the cell phone ban but GPS units?? Ann Arbor is not exactly laid out like a grid and, with its multitude of one-way streets, I need my GPS to safely find unfamiliar places. What would Ann Arbor rather have, drivers listening to their GPS devices or driving around like happy morons and getting into accidents??


Tue, Mar 16, 2010 : 7:17 a.m.

I am amazed by the priorities of the City Council. With regulation at the state level addressing this issue in the wings, why is this a local priority? Council members please be assured that this voter will remember your roles in establishing this redundant regulation, instead of focusing on Ann Arbor's more pressing problems at the time of the next election.


Tue, Mar 16, 2010 : 6:58 a.m.

I just read some study saying that built in devices like MP3 players, GPS, DVDs also distract drivers. And I know that when I try to eat while driving, it is challenging to pay attention to the road. When my young children fought in the car, I can't pay attention well. And what about those people driving with a dog romping all over the car? That is not safe. Someone in that situation hit Stephen King a few years ago and nearly killed him. So...ban food, dogs, kids, all built in devices, plus the rest of it. Right? (BTW, I vote.)


Tue, Mar 16, 2010 : 5:12 a.m.

When is the next election? How do you spell Rapundalo? Think of the courts that will be clogged with motorist, bicylist, fighting their tickets while forcing the city to "prove" that they were actually on the phone. A simple delete the last call will suffice. Oh, then what, will the city attorney subpoena the phone records of that offender to prove that they were on the phone? What a true waste of time. It is no wonder the city is in the finanacial shape that it's in. Council members whose seemingly pet projects get more attention instead of making the real hard decisions for their constituents. Decisions like how to get out of their financial hole.


Tue, Mar 16, 2010 : 4:30 a.m.

Ban GPS use huh? LOL. You can always count on Ann Arbor for a good belly laugh. The pot smokers are all big now and some even have positions on city council. Makes you wonder if pot really does lead you into "CRACK" doesn't it? I bet they won't ban "smoking and driving". If you are tired of this foolishness move to Ypsilanti. We may not wear organic underpants but at least we know where to keep our crackheads.


Tue, Mar 16, 2010 : 3:50 a.m.

i think ann arbor suck of dam strict cant used gps when people who get lost or not know where at address they can used wireless headset there is no prm they used there eye on road they cant used cell phose while driving well i guess ann anbor take job there ass and must pay attence on job and road we work hard not pay dam tax for living

Matt Cooper

Mon, Mar 15, 2010 : 11:47 p.m.

Liftpoint31: About 10 years ago I had just bought a new car. As I was on my way that day to register for classes at Washtenaw Community College, I was sitting waiting for traffic to clear so I could make a left turn into the WCC parking lot. This was before the stop light was installed at the WCC entrance on Clark road. I happened to glance up and look at my rear view mirror. It was then I saw it. A small compact car bearing down on me from behind. I saw it too late. He slammed into my rear end at about 50 miles per hour. The rear bumper on my Lincoln Town Car was moved into the trunk about 8-10 inches, the driver seat I was sitting in was slammed backward so hard it actually broke the bolts that hold it to the floor. I got a concussion injury to my brain. My car was totalled. I got seriously injured. and the worst part is that it all happened because the moron that hit me felt it was more important to chit chat on his cell phone than it was to pay attention to the traffic in front of him. So when you say "...please keep your fears away from my freedoms!!!" I am personally offended. When your (or others like you) freedom to drive irresponsibly, foolishly and downright obnoxiously place my health, safety and even my very existence in jeopardy, your supposed freedoms STOP. You have no right, nor does anyone else, to act or behave, while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle, in such a way as to cause me to possibly be injured, maimed or even killed. If making it illegal to chit chat on a cell phone while driving will save my life or someone else's, I am all for restricting your freedom, or anyone else's that thinks their cell phone call is more important than my life, or the lives of others on the road. Cry all you want. Get over yourself.


Mon, Mar 15, 2010 : 11:30 p.m.

the world is a dangerous place! should we shut down public trans. so nobody gets hit by a bus? maybe we should have a curfew because its scary out when its dark. how bout we tattoo a number on everybody so no one gets lost. bad things happen to kids maybe we shouldnt let people have them anymore. well maybe just one kid but after that we will fine you. Its for your own good! Seriously folks where does it end? Accidents happen, people do dumb things while driving(yes even you).either grow up or stay in your house,but please keep your fears away from my freedoms!!!!

Anonymous Due to Bigotry

Mon, Mar 15, 2010 : 10:39 p.m.

Having read the research that says that simply using a "hands free device" to talk on a cell phone doesn't substantially reduce the risk of using a cell phone while actually holding it I can agree to the part about banning talking on the phone even with bluetooth headsets etc But banning GPS devices? That's ridiculous. Would they rather that people fumble around with paper maps? I'm quite sure that would be much more likely to cause a crash. When you pass ridiculous laws like this you can just end up making the problem worse. People may just decide that the GPS ban is so stupid that they're going to use their GPS anyway, and since they're already breaking the same law doing that then they might as well use their cell phone to send some text messages at the same time. While I might be inclined to stop using my BT headset, I know I won't stop using my GPS because of a law like this. I wonder how many people on the city council have read the book _Freakonomics_? Maybe we need a law forcing them to do so.


Mon, Mar 15, 2010 : 10:34 p.m.

Say what you will about Big Brother, but cell phone usage is out of control here. In New York I expect irresponsible, careless and relentlessley aggressive driving, but Ann Arobor? Really? Please.

Mr. Scientist

Mon, Mar 15, 2010 : 10:30 p.m.

You are right SNAPSHOT.. anyone stopping at a green light should go straight to jail. And not that pleasant county jail.. no no.. right to maximum security!


Mon, Mar 15, 2010 : 10:22 p.m.

Cell phone addicts are so arrogant. If you were actually driving rather than talking and texting, you'd know what a road hazard you are to us drivers paying attention and not crashing into you while you stop at GREEN lights, stay stopped at red lights, pull out of shopping centers without looking, run stop signs, tailgait, and drift out of your lanes. I think it should be use a phone while driving, go to jail.


Mon, Mar 15, 2010 : 9:37 p.m.

Stephen Rapundalo, as a second ward voter, let me assure you your name will be remembered come election time! This is a total farce! How about we enforce real laws and keep government out of our lives. Any revenue (taxes) that is created by this B.S. ordinance will be lost in the inevitable court battles that will ensue!


Mon, Mar 15, 2010 : 9:34 p.m.

What about unfolding and reading *paper* maps and then transmitting (handing) them to someone in the back seat? What about turning around in the driver's seat and checking to see if your child is really choking on the pretzel you just gave her? What about shaving with an electric device? What about making matte? What about... The above actions are a mere subset of all the potentially hazardous things a driver can do that may cause an accident. C'mon -- think "to the end" when writing bans. Analyze any lack of logic. Think. Include all 5000 "don'ts" or don't put any in at all, rendering the "ban" useless.


Mon, Mar 15, 2010 : 9:17 p.m.

Im so glad that this vote has been postponed. This proposal reaches far beyond the scope of safety and into the ridiculous! A simple ban on texting and a requirement for hands free talking would be sufficient. I fail to see how hands free communication is any more dangerous than communicating with passengers in the vehicle. Further, to ban navigation devices is simply a step backward in the pursuit of safer driving. Get a clue council! Vote this down!

Mr. Scientist

Mon, Mar 15, 2010 : 9:12 p.m.

Well, this would mean one can't listen to the radio anymore and neither could one use a build-in navigator. Simply put.. this is stupid.


Mon, Mar 15, 2010 : 9:06 p.m.

"Big Brother is Watching You" telescreens will be placed everywhere as a friendly reminder. Welcome to the totalitarian state of Ann Arbor.


Mon, Mar 15, 2010 : 8:22 p.m.

And the city deficit gets worse...


Mon, Mar 15, 2010 : 8:20 p.m.

So Ann Arbor City Council members are going to fine cell phone users $125 because THEIR BEHAVIOR is unsafe. We are told it's grandmotherly concern for infantile resident's safety and absolutely positively NOT A TAX. All WINTER following any snow fall, we see dozens of CAR ACCIDENTS around the CITY OF ANN ARBOR because the ROADS ARE NOT PLOWED OR SALTED DURING RUSH HOUR. SAFETY HAZARD!! SAFETY HAZARD!! How seriously does the CITY OF ANN ARBOR take its roll of ultimate protector of safety when that protection COSTS THE CITY MONEY?! Further, what is the statistical comparison between accidents caused by cell phone and the Citys failure to maintain roads in the winter? Driving into the City from the west one morning, dozens of cars were stacked up, sliding into each other as they failed to make it up the hill into town! So how much will the City of Ann Arbor pay RESIDENTS IN FINES for this gross negligence? How about having the Police show up at a council meeting and hand out tickets to members for, say, $1,000 each? Councils' phony maternal concern over residents safety just another cash grab that I hope voters remember in November.