By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
The Killeen City Council has decided to rethink its stance on the potential of an ordinance banning cell phone use while driving.
But council members don't want a repeat of the smoking ban controversy, which went on for almost five months after the council first placed it on the agenda for approval.
None of the councilmen Tuesday expressed a desire for an all-out ban on cell phones while driving. The options discussed primarily centered on requiring drivers to use a hands-free device, as well as an all-out ban on sending text messages while driving.
But learning from the smoking ban controversy, the council decided to seek public input for a potential cell phone ordinance before the councilmen make up their minds.
During Tuesday's workshop session, council members agreed to start scheduling public hearings on some form of cell phone ordinance.
The council instructed staff to look into Fort Hood's history of cell phone violations since the post's hands-free-only law went into effect.
City Attorney Kathy Davis said the council might not be able to rely on the state Legislature to institute a law because the situation in Austin has changed significantly since she last briefed the council Feb. 3.
"It looks like it's stalling again (in the Legislature)," Davis said. "The communications companies have really come out strong against this."
Councilman Juan Rivera said he hasn't formed an opinion on the issue and wanted a series of public hearings on the topic before the council considers drafting an ordinance.
"It's not only about a cell phone ordinance; it's about sending text messages, e-mails," Rivera said. "If we have to do anything at all, I'd like to look into having public hearings. You're not talking about a small percentage of people. Teenagers are sending text messages like crazy.
"If you think the smoking ban was bad, wait till we open this bad boy up."
Councilman Scott Cosper said he's all for a public hearing, but if he had to vote right now, he wouldn't be for it.
"I'm reluctant to move forward on this," Cosper said. "There are so many distractions, from talking to smoking to makeup to reading the newspaper. In school zones, I understand a bit, there are kids. ... I'm not opposed to a public hearing, but I'm not putting support for a ban of any kind at this point."
Mayor Pro Tem Fred Latham, who will leave office after the May 9 election, said his position has changed on the topic several times, but it won't matter because of his limited time remaining.
"I think it might be the lesser of two evils. I am concerned about a citywide ban," Latham said. "I won't be here when this is voted on, but good luck, everybody."
Contact Justin Cox at email@example.com or (254) 501-7568.