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Monday, August 27, 2012

Driven to Distraction

At tonight's City Council meeting, Troy's REVISED distracted driving ordinance comes up for vote.

Click this link to see the resolution.  (CLICK)

Effectively, a move by Councilman Dave Henderson prompted the council to vote 4-3 in support of asking City Attorney Bluhm to re-draft the ordinance, striking out the part that covers a multitude of behaviors that COULD prompt an officer to ticket a driver under the ordinance.

Striking that portion means that IF a driver is pulled over for driving recklessly and an officer decides to ticket, he/she can ONLY ticket under a LAW, not an ordinance.  It would mean a greater offense for a larger fine and possibly points -- making insurance go up, too.

Part of CM Henderson's angst appeared to be with officers using discretion.  He insinuated several times on record that it was offensive to him that the officers don't uniformly ticket every single time they pull someone over.

Chief Mayer tried to explain that a major purpose of the ordinance is EDUCATION.  Having it on the books allows officers to pull distracted drivers over, evaluate how dangerous the behavior was, and then either WARN or TICKET based on that -- resulting in more awareness and safer roads.

I fail to see why this is so awful.  I don't understand why it's considered a governmental overreach, as Henderson and his supporters like to view it.

And frankly, the day officers DON'T use discretion is the day I call for anarchy.

Consider writing the members of City Council (use to get them all in one fell swoop) today about this ordinance, asking them to KEEP IT THE WAY IT IS.


  1. I know I should have these on 'speed dial" but I don't. Does anyone have the email addresses for council members? I couldn't find them on the troy website.

    1. will get you all of them. :)

  2. Laywer here. Here's how I see what Dave is suggesting:

    Henderson has proffered to alter the definition of distracted driving. As it stands now, the definition of "distracted driving" includes "Any action by the driver of a motor vehicle that diverts his or her attention resulting in the failure to use due care and caution in the safe operation of a motor vehicle while the vehicle is in motion..." This includes such activities as eating while driving, shaving, petting your dog, etc.

    By changing the definition, Henderson is limiting the enforcement mechanisms available to the government, i.e. the police. Under Troy's current definition, there are specific things that the police can point to and say "That is distracted driving." (This was the Chief Mayer's point when he addressed council.)

    As a counterpoint, let's look at Michigan's definition of reckless driving, which Henderson thinks is just fine: "[A] person who operates a vehicle upon a highway or a frozen public lake, stream, or pond or other place open to the general public, including, but not limited to, an area designated for the parking of motor vehicles, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of a misdemeanor..." MCL 257.626.

    That's it. That's reckless driving in Michigan. Kinda vague, ain't it?

    So if Dave gets his way, there is lots more behavior that can go on behind the wheel that the police can do nothing about.

    But as long as we have small government, amiright?

    And here's another point: Do you ever wonder where the fines associated with traffic tickets goes? I bet you assume that they go to the local municipality. Not quite.

    The state gets a percentage of the traffic fines with almost every single ticket issued. The percentages vary, depending on the law or ordinance violated. If the ticket is issued under state law, more money goes to the state. But if Troy issues tickets under its own ordinance, it keeps a larger percentage of the money. By forcing Troy to use the state law, Troy will be getting a smaller percentage of the fines collected!

    So by eliminating this enforcement mechanism Henderson is a) Limiting what the police can do when they see idiots on the road; b) Sending city money to the state; and c) Making us all less safe in the process!

    All because Henderson thinks the ordinance "simply allows too much gray area to enter into a driver/police situation."

    And here I thought I couldn't have less respect for Henderson...

  3. "prompted the council to vote 4-3 in support ". So it was, so it shall be.

  4. Done, did the email. I read the police department's clarification on this ordinance on the city website, it makes sense to me, and has been on the books already for some time, with no complaints. "If is ain't broke, don't try to fix it"...I hope council takes this tack and leaves this ordinance alone.

    It also sounds like more and more cities ARE passing distracted driving laws similar to Troy's, we were ahead of our time, and by weakening this, we are moving backward.

  5. Wary and Weary in TroyAugust 27, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    I do not like the idea that a council person can determine based on a personal view, not data or statistics or dare I say FACTS that they want a law/ordinance removed or changed to their liking. It is ridiculous that previous councils and staff spent considerable time researching and wording and putting into place with other agencies something that one councilman plus his voteys can change in two meetings.
    Honestly, this could really get out of hand if it isn't watched carefully. With this majority vote on council who is to say that they won't decide to change all sorts of pet projects. Very worrying.

    1. It's that part about DESPITE FACTS that bothers me.

      Henderson brings it up...Fleming falls all over himself agreeing...Tietz backs them up. All heard the police information TWICE that we know of in open meeting. All still voted to redraft the ordinance. It's nuts.

      Though, like an anonymous observer said to me today -- maybe if Fleming asks for 1/4 of the offensive portion of the ordinance to be taken out, it'll be small enough for him to agree to it! LOL...

  6. In Henderson's defense, I truly think he doesn't understand this. He likes things to be black and white and when something isn't, he thinks it is best to change it so it is. He means well. He just, truly, doesn't understand. He's charming, affable, reasonably bright, but this type of thing, to him, seems like it needs fixing. Never mind that an expert in the field tells him it doesn't need fixing. It's sad. And frustrating. To his fan club, he looks like he's fighting the good fight! To everyone else, well. Honestly, I feel sorry for him. As for Tietz and Fleming, I don't know what to think.

  7. Dan Quayle was just absolutely positive potato was spelled potatoe. And Dave? Well, ignorance of the law is no excuse, as they say.

    I don't feel sorry for him. He's a classic passive-agressive who's in over his head and is trying to be one of the big boys at the table.

  8. The lack of common sense is astonishing. Police officer descretion is necessary component of efficient and effective law enforcement. Decisions regarding ticket issuance should rightly be made by the officer observing the infraction with consideration given to the totality of the circumstances. For example the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code states the following: "257.611 Traffic control devices; obedience required; ...violation as civil infraction. Sec. 611. (1) The driver of a vehicle or operator of a streetcar shall not disobey the instructions of a traffic
    control device placed in accordance with this chapter unless at the time otherwise directed by a police officer." In other words you fail to stop for a red light you have committed a violation; pursuant to Mr. Henderson's logic a ticket should uniformly be issued. However, if your daughter is stopped for a red light and a car load of unsavory men pull up next to her and begin menacing her and she pulls through the red light to escape, should she receive a ticket? Or what if an officer stops you for a legitimate violation and as the officer begins to write the ticket he or she is informed a serious crime is being committed nearby; shouldn't the officer let you go and deal with the more pressing matter? Sorry, but when you start to restrict a police officer's descretion you leave little room for common sense and must write volumes to detail all the possible situations that may allow the officer to not take enforcement action.
    As for the distracted driving ordinance, I've seen people reading the newpaper, readng books, shaving, brushing their teeth, applying makeup (with the rear view mirror rendered useless as they use it for a vanity mirror), gripping large sandwiches with both hands as they apparently steer with their knees, changing clothes and smoking a cigarette as they talk on the cellphone. I see these things during my commutes on Rochester Road and I-75. As I understand it if these folks are able to stay in the lane, stay within the speed limit and stop at red lights there's nothing an officer do unless there is a distracted driving law. You can't reasonably think that those actions are safe and such drivers scare me to the point I try and get away from them. All the Troy Police are doing is trying to keep us safe and protect us from those who make bad decisions.
    When an officer abuses descretion we can do something about it, when they can't utilize descretion because of a policy restiction and something bad happens, it's too late to complain.

    1. It scares me how cavalierly some council members (excluding McGinnis, Slater or Campbell) are willing to discard paragraph 3) of this ordinance in spite of expert opinion otherwise. If I were in this position of power I would seriouly consider how many lives might be lost due to my flippant and whimsical decision to change this law. It's the ripple in the pond effect. One driver pulled over and warned because of paragraph three, may stop their future egregious driving behavior, and that fatal crash that might have occured will have been avoided.