Texting and driving will no longer be an option in Columbia.
The City Council unanimously amended the city code Monday night to ban distracted driving, which is defined in the ordinance as anything that takes a driver’s attention away from the act of driving, including the use of cell phones.
Columbia Police Department Deputy Chief John Gordon said officers would not pull over drivers just because they are distracted. If a driver is pulled over for a traffic violation and a distraction like looking at a cell phone is what caused the violation, this would be additional proof that the driver was not practicing “careful and prudent driving.”
City Counselor Nancy Thompson said the ban shifts the burden to the driver to prove that he or she was not distracted and was being a “careful and prudent” driver.
The ban is part of the city’s Vision Zero Action Plan, which is intended to end all traffic fatalities by 2030.
A council memo cited statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that showed that 15 percent of all crashes nation-wide that led to injuries were caused by distracted driving in 2015.
The memo also cited statistics from the Missouri Department of Transportation that showed 448 out of 7,706 crashes in Columbia from 2011 to 2015 were cased by distracted driving. Those crashes killed three people and caused 620 injuries. Between 2011 and 2015, 45 people were killed in all car crashes in Columbia and 4,206 injuries were reported.
The council also addressed a resolution to support the legalization of medical marijuana; established a permanent Parking Advisory Commission; approved annexation and re-zoning of 162 acres near Rolling Hills Road and Route WW; and established the Mayor’s Task Force on Climate Action and Adaptation Planning to create a climate action plan for the city.
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