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WARREN Councilman will submit plan that bans cellular phone use



Published: Tue, May 22, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



One council member says the city has more pressing issues than prohibiting motorists from using cell phones.

By AMANDA C. DAVIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- A councilman plans to introduce legislation Wednesday to ban cell phone use while driving in the city.

Ron White, D-4th, said that council's finance committee will discuss today the legislation to protect motorists from accidents he believes are preventable.

"People don't realize the dangers of driving with a cell phone," he said. "They will just have to pull over and use a pay phone in an emergency."

White almost wrecked while driving and using a cell phone, prompting him to get rid of the phone. He now pulls over and uses a pay phone if he needs to make a call.

Alford Novak, D-2nd, said the ban might be viewed by some as overlegislating and he wants to talk with Police Chief John Mandopoulos and municipal Judge Thomas Gysegem before voting on the measure.

The city has more pressing issues, such as getting the police and fire departments back to full staff, Novak said.

With passage of a temporary 0.5-percent income tax, the police and fire chiefs are working to bring back furloughed personnel, but must also go through a lengthy hiring process that includes background checks, physicals, interviews and drug tests.

Lengthy process: That could take a while, Novak said, explaining that police officers now are trying to boost traffic enforcement that was not a priority during the city's fiscal crunch.

Enforcement should target motorists who speed in school zones and those who blare loud music, Novak said.

Mandopoulos said he understands the legislation's intent but questioned how authorities could prove someone was talking on the phone.

Studies have shown it can be dangerous to drive while using a cell phone, the chief said, noting council needs to discuss whether legislation should exempt those using head sets and other gear designed to free up motorists' hands.




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