In principle, a voluntary ban on cell-phone use by motorists in Marble Falls’ parks sounds like a good idea. But then how do you enforce it? And what penalties does the city assess if the ban isn’t followed? After all, it is voluntary.
These are the questions the city has to ponder ever since businessman and former Councilman Josh Parker suggested the ban to help safeguard children and other pedestrians in the parks, which include Johnson, Lakeside and Westside.
During the City Council’s recent meeting in which the suggestion was considered, it was noted that state law already bans the use of cell phones by drivers in school zones, which includes texting, emails and calls.
In addition, the city of Austin, among other metropolises, has banned the use of cell phones by all drivers when their cars are in motion, no matter where they are, school zone or not.
In the case of Marble Falls, a voluntary ban suggests drivers will police themselves. Parker has offered to pay for signs out of his own pocket warning motorists not to use their phones while driving in the parks.
Mayor George Russell has said area civic clubs might wish to support the initiative as a service project by paying for the signs and putting them up.
Both of these are great ideas.
But human nature being what it is, most people likely will ignore any voluntary calls to stay off the phones.
People usually don’t refrain from an action unless a penalty is involved.
Since the state already has attached a fine for cell-phone use in school zones, and other cities have done the same for their environs, Marble Falls might as well look at making it illegal for drivers to use cell phones in the parks if officials are really serious about protecting pedestrians.
If the city really wants to preserve the parks from motorists yakking on their phones, then it shouldn’t make compliance voluntary. They need a law with some teeth to it.
The bans in school zones are Class C misdemeanors, punishable by a fine. The council could approve a similar ordinance for the park.
Of course, the city also could put up fences around the playgrounds, then link those areas by walkways protected by flashing lights.
That was an idea suggested years ago and abandoned, but it has never quite gone away.
In some ways, this makes more sense than a cell-phone ban, but also costs more.
The only real problem with a cell-phone ban is that it’s hard to enforce. Just ask the police.
Also, there doesn’t seem to be any record of any serious or deadly accidents occurring in any Marble Falls parks tied to inattentive motorists using their cell phones. There have been plenty of speeding episodes, but there’s already a law and signs for that.
In the end, there’s no harm and little cost associated with putting up signs asking people to stay off their phones when they drive through the park.
But maybe another sign needs to go up, too, reminding parents not to let their children run into the street.