(Proxmire, Ferndale 115 News, Aug. 15, 2012)
City Attorney Dan Christ has been busy preparing a batch of ordinance changes which the City of Ferndale adopted at the Aug. 13, 2012 City Council Meeting. Four approved code changes involve the operation of motor vehicles, and their enactment means that the City can capture more revenue.
Texting while driving, super drunk driving, impeding traffic and enforcement in private parking lots were all tackled at the meeting. The changing of these infractions from state law to local ordinance, made possible by a legislative change in the Home Rule Cities Act, allows more flexibility in sentencing. It also allows the City to make more in fines and penalties without having to send as much back to the state. The penalties are the same as under the State law, it simply means that Ferndale will be able to collect a higher percentage of the fines and costs.
The ordinance changes came about at the request of the District Court. Recently Judge Joseph Longo gave an interview to The Ferndale 115 News about how much of the revenue was simply sent away to the State. Monday night’s vote will help to alleviate some of the funneling effect of that revenue.
Texting While Driving
Christ explained that until recently there had been no state law against texting while driving, but that “a number of municipalities have adopted it, and it is one that a number of municipalities and law enforcement individuals and prosecutors believe is a safety issue in respect to people trying to operate a vehicle while engaged in other activities like texting.”
Councilperson Melanie Piana did some online research and found that the state did indeed have a no-texting ban on the books. However, by Ferndale making it a local ordinance rather than a state one, it allows the city to capture a greater percentage of the fines collected, which would otherwise have gone to the state.
Police Chief Timothy Collins explained that the ordinance isn’t necessarily one that will be cited often, but that officers can use the texting ban as a reason to pull people over and make sure they are being safe.
“It is a preventative ordinance and law,” he said. “But it is one that you’d have to, under the state law, you’re prohibited from requiring a driver to show you his phone. The proofs are somewhat difficult. The officer would actually have to observe them texting on their phone and see the maneuvers that would be associated with texting because it does not prohibit the use of a phone. Many times smart phones are being utilized very similar to texting so the proofs are not slam dunk. it is something that brings forward to the public that we will be looking out for this and it is a very dangerous thing to do when you’re driving.”
Everyone on council supported the ordinance, including Councilperson Dan Martin who said “This is widely done…This is a good opportunity to educate and cut down on the use of this.”
Super Drunk Driving went into effect in 2010, though enacting a local ordinance against it allows the City to intercept some of the fines that would have been going to the State. It also allows for a fine larger than the typical $500 civil infraction fine.
People with a blood alcohol level of .17 or above are subjected to higher penalties and fees. M Live reported that “Fines and other costs could top $8,000, some defense attorneys predict. Alcohol treatment is mandatory, possible jail time is doubled, and driving is forbidden for 45 days.” The article also says that offenders must install an in-car breathalyzer which will prevent the vehicle from starting if the driver fails a breath test.
Impeding traffic is another citation that existed at the state level, but is now permitted locally. Impeding traffic means that “No person shall operate a motor vehicle upon a public highway or street or municipal lot in such a manner as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic by operating a motor vehicle which is not moving and which is stopped in the lane of travel of the public highway or street or municipal lot. A person who violates this section is responsible for a civil infraction punishable by an amount not to exceed $500.”
Traffic Enforcement in Private Parking Lots
Chief Collins introduced this change, explaining “there are only a couple instances where we have the authority to enforce traffic code on private property – drunk driving, careless driving, reckless driving, handicapped parking. On than that ,private parking – if you own a parking lot and people park there all we can do is tow the vehicle at the owner’s request. …If these lots are signed properly and people come them, they call us and we have the option of issuing a citation instead of towing the vehicle. It gives s another option to assist a business owner that have people incurring or encroaching upon their parking lots.” Collins added that this ordinance was at the request of several business owners in the Downtown area.
The entire municipal code is available online at the City’s website http://www.ferndale-mi.com/, as are video archives of City Council meetings, including this one.