By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
Drivers in Killeen can use their cell phones any way they want – and that's not going to change anytime soon.
The Killeen City Council expressed no interest Tuesday in discussing any sort of restrictions right now for the potentially polarizing debate.
Though most councilmen declared some sort of opposition to common cell phone practices of Killeen drivers – particularly text messaging while driving – the council was nearly unanimous in its desire to leave this one alone and let the state Legislature have a go at it.
During Tuesday's workshop meeting, Councilman Larry Cole said he'd be all for considering restrictions, especially since he openly admitted that he uses a hand-held cell phone while driving, remarking that it's a legitimate safety concern.
"I'm guilty, I haven't had any accidents yet, but I've missed a lot of turns," he said. "If we're going to do anything, I'd probably be the first one to get a citation. It is a safety issue."
Councilman Billy Workman spoke similarly on the topic.
"I've been run off the road into a childcare center by this lady who was texting," he said.
But Mayor Pro Tem Fred Latham said the City Council has more productive things to do with its time right now. Latham said he's received several e-mails from residents concerned that the council is more interested in "feel-good" issues that generate debate than the real issues facing Killeen.
"I don't think we can stop them from using their phone. It's just part of what we do," Latham said. "Our citizens are more concerned with burglaries and other things ? people ask me 'why would you pursue the smoking ordinance or the cell phone ordinance when somebody is breaking into my home?'"
Currently, Killeen has no law restricting aspects of cell phone use.
Many states have laws stipulating hands-free calls only while driving.
While no city in Texas has outlawed text messaging, City Attorney Kathy Davis said Austin is close.
In November, Austin's public safety task force approved a resolution that could ban texting while driving and require motorists to use hands-free devices. The proposal is currently in the drafting stage and awaits council review.
The state Legislature currently has nine proposed bills restricting cell phone use in some shape or form, ranging from school zone restrictions only to an all-out ban on wireless communication and acting in any manner which distracts from the task of driving.
Councilman Juan Rivera brought the item to the council so that members could be briefed on what other states and cities have. He's concerned that if it's left alone, it's not going to draw attention until someone dies in an accident caused by an inattentive driver.
"It's not about the single issue; it's about something that's waiting to happen. And that something could be a fatal accident," he said. "I am not trying to tell you (the council) or ask you to look into this issue. But are we going to wait until something happens before we look into this issue?"
Contact Justin Cox at email@example.com or call (254) 501-7568.