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Argo City Council passes distracted driving ordinance

By Shaun Szkolnik

For The Tribune

ARGO — The Argo City Council discussed a proposed ordinance that would grant law enforcement greater authority to deter distracted driving in the city.  Part of the discussion concerned a clarification of what would count as distracted driving and what the police would have to be able to articulate before pulling motorists over and issuing citations.

City Attorney Johnny Bronson clarified the issue for the council.

“You can’t arbitrarily pull someone over,” said Bronson. “You have to have a probable cause to pull somebody over for any other reason…it is part of your due process and constitutional rights.  There has to be a reason…there has to be an element of swerving, erratic driving, some other reason that you can articulate to pull them over.”

While such a precursor cause would be needed to pull over a motorist for distracted driving in most situations, if a police officer witnessed a motorist texting on a cell phone, that would be cause enough for a stop.

“If a police officer sees you doing that (texting while driving), texting is a little different than the other things like eating a hamburger, combing your hair.”

Argo Chief of Police James Downey also addressed the matter in his comments to the council during the monthly police report.

“Don’t get it in your head that we’re going to see someone drinking a coke, eating a hamburger, and we’re going to pull them over and write them a ticket,” Downey said. “They’ve got to be doing something to be pulled over.  Cross over the line, run off the road and they’re eating a hamburger while they cross the line, then they’ll get a distracted driving ticket.”

The council passed the distracted driving ordinance unanimously.

In other news, Mayor Betty Bradley addressed the council about several items.  A meeting exploring the viability and possible structure of an Argo Area Chamber of Commerce will be held at the municipal complex on Tuesday at 6 p.m.  The City of Argo will hold a budget meeting on Wednesday at 6 p.m.  Saturday is Argo cleanup day. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and volunteers will need to show up at the Park Pavilion.

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