The Oxford City Council approved an ordinance banning text messaging while driving a motor vehicle during its regular meeting Tuesday. The ordinance had full backing from Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge.
“We’ve had numerous wrecks over the past several years with people texting while driving,” Partridge said. “If we’re able to save one teenager’s life or one adult’s life with this, it’s worth it.”
Partridge noted that the purpose of the ordinance was not to have officers ticketing as many offenders as possible. Instead, the real goal is to make drivers aware of how dangerous it can be to text while driving.
“It’s about creating an awareness,” Partridge said.
According to the ordinance, a person convicted of texting while driving can be fined up to $500 or be sentenced to up to 30 days in jail. The ordinance excuses motorists of wrongdoing if they are texting while the vehicle is parked on the shoulder of a roadway at stopped at a stoplight or stop sign. The ordinance does not prohibit cellphone calls or using global positioning or navigation positioning on a phone.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, there are 35 states that ban texting while driving and nine states that prohibit using handheld cell phones while driving. Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, recently filed a bill to ban texting while driving for all of Alabama.
Oxford’s ordinance is very similar to a texting ban Jacksonville passed two years ago. Jacksonville Police Chief Tommy Thompson said the ban has been difficult to enforce.
“We do more warnings than anything,” Thompson said during a Tuesday phone interview. “It’s difficult to make a case good enough to prove texting in court.”
Also during the meeting, the council approved engineering services for an estimated $1.2 million plan to upgrade and repair Oxford Lake. The council hired Birmingham-based engineering firm Goodwyn Mills and Cawood to perform the engineering services. The firm’s fee will be 7.5 percent of the total $1.2 million cost of the project.
Don Hudson, director of the Oxford Parks and Recreation Department, said the project would focus on installing new borders for the lake’s banks and repairing erosion around the island in the center of the lake.
“We do have cross-ties that serve as the wall of the lake now and we’ve got pretty good seepage on the west side and 10 to 15 feet of erosion on the island,” Hudson said.
Hudson said the cross-ties would be replaced with more durable metallic sheet piling. He added that the lake would not have to be drained to install the sheet piling, as was the case when the cross-ties were installed in the 1980s.
In addition, the city plans to repave the existing walking trail around the lake and build two picnic pavilions – one on the lake’s southern edge near the existing dock and one on the northwest side of the lake. Each pavilion will hold between 75 and 100 people.
The council also approved a $395,704 expenditure to buy a new fire truck. The truck will be paid for through the city’s fire tax fund. The truck will be used at the city’s recently constructed fourth fire station on Alabama 21. Fire Chief Gary Sparks said the original plan was to use an old 1990 model truck for the new station. However, that vehicle recently broke down and the company that made it is out of business, meaning finding replacement parts will be difficult.
“This new truck will be great,” Sparks said. “It does everything we need it to do.”
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star