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Council to vote on plan to ban texting while driving

On Tuesday night, city lawmakers are expected to take their first step towards enacting a ban on texting while driving.

A proposed local law that would prohibit drivers from composing, reading or sending a text message while operating a motor vehicle in the city will come before the Common Council when it meets at 6 p.m. in City Hall, 216 Payne Ave.

Like similar proposals in nearby communities, including the one passed by the Niagara County Legislature that goes into effect next month, the proposed law would be tougher than a state law that will go into effect Nov. 1.

State law will permit "secondary enforcement"; in other words, police may charge a driver with violating the texting ban only if he or she were stopped for another driving infraction.

The city's proposal, like the county's, would allow officers who see the texting infraction to stop drivers who are not breaking any other laws.

City Attorney Shawn P. Nickerson said he was asked by Mayor Lawrence V. Soos to craft the proposed law.

"I think our goal is to make the citizens of North Tonawanda safe," Nickerson said. "We felt it necessary to address it within our city."

Nickerson said the city's law would remain in effect after the state's begins to apply Nov. 1. The city law would give officers an additional power the state law would not. Under the City Charter, a proposed law cannot be enacted until after it is before the Council for seven days. The Council must also hold a public hearing on the proposal before it can be enacted.

The city's ban could be in place before the county's goes into effect, Nickerson said.

Drivers convicted of the violation in the city would be subject to fines, and like other traffic offenses, violations would be prosecuted by the city attorney's office, he said.

The Cattaraugus County Legislature passed a similar law in June, while the lawmakers in the Town of Amherst voted to enact a ban Aug. 17. The Erie County Legislature is also considering a ban.

e-mail: abesecker@buffnews.com

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