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Madison City Council passes texting while driving ban

The Madison City Council joined Huntsville Monday, Aug. 23, as another municipality in the state to ban texting while driving.

District 3 council representative Jerry Jennings introduced the ordinance, which will go into effect Sept. 20.

“I believe that it is a safety issue and we need to take action on that to protect roadway safety,” Jennings said.

Council President Bill Holtzclaw said he felt it was important to join Huntsville in making the ban an ordinance, as it’s often difficult to tell where the Madison city limits end and the Huntsville city limits begin.

Holtzclaw also said that after seeing hundreds of students at Bob Jones High School sign a pledge in the spring to not text while driving, it showed him the importance of such an ordinance.

“That really kind of moved it to the forefront for me,” Holtzclaw said. “They can now teach this in our driver’s ed courses that it is illegal to text and drive.”

However, not all council representatives agreed.

District 4 representative Tim Cowles said it is not the place of the city government to legislate behavior.

“I think it’s a mistake to legislate people’s behaviors in cars,” Cowles said. “It’s an example of a nanny government. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Cowles also said that District 6 representative Larry Vannoy, who was absent during Monday’s meeting, had sent an e-mail to the council outlining his stance against the ordinance.

District 5 representative Tommy Overcash disagreed with Cowles, saying it is the responsibility of government to legislate some behaviors.

“I’ve seen several stories that state that texting while driving is more dangerous than drinking and driving, and we certainly legislate that,” Overcash said.

The ordinance is identical to Huntsville’s in that it is a secondary offense, meaning officers cannot solely pull over someone for texting. The Madison ordinance also eliminates jail time.

“I still think there are people who are going to go home tonight and still text and drive,” Holtzclaw said. “But it is a start.”

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