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LSL alderman continues effort to ban texting while driving

A Lake Saint Louis alderman again plans to seek a ban on all texting while driving in the city.

Alderman John Pellerito (Ward 3) said he plans to introduce the bill at the city’s Board of Aldermen meeting on Oct. 6. He filed a similar bill earlier this year, but the board voted in May to drop it from consideration.

Pellerito’s bill is similar to ordinances adopted by Kirkwood, St. Charles, Manchester, Florissant and St. John and would go a step beyond current state law, which prohibits texting only for drivers age 21 and younger. His bill would ban texting for all drivers no matter what their age.

Older drivers, he said, are also guilty of using electronic devices that distract them, causing accidents. Pellerito’s earlier bill would not have restricted the use of cell phones and allowed texting in emergency situations

Earlier this year, however, aldermen heard that the ordinance would be difficult to enforce. They were also worried that cities may not have the authority to pass a local law that supersedes state law.

Pellerito didn’t give up on the idea and this summer discussed reintroducing the bill. He said he planned to discuss it further with aldermen at a retreat.

But the adoption of similar bills by Kirkwood and by St. Charles on Sept. 2, prompted him to ask board members on Sept. 22 if they would support a new bill.

“I think this is a good thing that could save lives,” Pellerito told aldermen at a work session.

He said he contacted city attorneys for Kirkwood and Florissant, who said their city officials had similar concerns about a new law, but that they also wanted to get the message out to people to discourage texting while driving.

Pellerito said he may introduce a bill that copies portions of the St. Charles bill, which has two sections – one applying to drivers age 21 and older and the other applying to underage drivers.

“According to those city attorneys, there is very little chance that this could be challenged,” Pellerito said.

Four aldermen and Mayor Kathy Schweikert gave Pellerito an OK for introducing the bill. Alderman Jason Law (Ward 3) said he could support the bill as long as the purpose of the bill was deterrence and not raising revenue from writing tickets.

“It’s not going to be about results, it’s more about education,” Pellerito said.

Alderman Karen Vennard (Ward 2) said she didn’t have a problem with the bill; however, she said police need “probable cause” to enforce any law.

Police Chief Mike Force agreed that strict enforcement would be difficult because it’s hard for police to observe someone texting.

“The times we could actually catch someone texting and driving are probably few,” Force said. “But I recognize the importance of getting the word out there.”

If the city adopts an ordinance, the local news media could help in getting the word out, he said.

“We’re really looking for voluntary compliance,” Force said. “We want people to recognize that texting and driving is dangerous for everyone and to voluntarily comply with this ordinance.”

Unlike the St. Charles ordinance, Pellerito said his proposed ordinance would not exclude possible enforcement along Interstates 70 and 64 within the city. The St. Charles bill applies to streets under the city’s jurisdiction and not state-maintained roads such as I-70 and Hwys. 370, 364 and 94.

Drivers convicted under the bans face fines—up to $300 in St. Charles if convicted in municipal court.


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