At tonight’s meeting, Town Council intends to fix a law of unintended consequences. In February, council enacted a law governing tow trucks and included a stipulation that a sign in the tow-truck enforced parking lot include a phone number that would be answered immediately by the towing company. A month later council passed a misguided law put forward by Penny Rich, before she became a lame duck, that limited certain drivers who use cell phones in their vehicles. Misguided because the law will not make our streets safer. According to Donna Bell and Ed Harrison, people can continue to talk on their cell phones while driving, but if they cause a horrific, perhaps fatal, accident while on the phone, it will cost them an extra $25. The cell phone law will cost taxpayers thousands of dollars to put up signs at all points of entry to the town explaining the impotent law, and it will cost us even more in legal bills. The law has already been challenged, and a judge has ordered a stay.
The cell phone law enacted in March is in direct conflict with the towing law passed in February. Whereas the cell phone law ostensibly prohibits everyone except members of a nuclear family (providing the spouses are of the opposite gender) from talking on the phone while driving, the towing law requires that the tow truck driver, regardless of his or her family status, answer the phone, even while driving.
The fix proposed tonight would give tow-truck operators a 15-minute grace period to return phone calls and would relax the signage requirements for parking lots. Instead of one sign for every three parking spaces, the lot can get by with prominently displayed “No Parking” signs. That would be an improvement over the signs in Panera’s parking lot that read “Video Surveillance in Effect,” but makes no link to private parking. One is left with the impression that the video surveillance is to discourage muggers not thieves who steal a few minutes of free parking.
The new language in the towing ordinance is all well and good. But what would make more sense is to tear up the cell phone ordinance before it costs the town more time and the taxpayers more money.
– Nancy Oates