Signs about cell use confusing

Signs announcing Marietta’s ban on hand-held wireless devices for drivers have been placed in more than a dozen highly visible areas around city entrances.

The signs are a courtesy to warn drivers of the law, said officials. But some, including a few drivers cited under the ban, find the text of the sign to be confusing-an inaccurate representation of what the city’s wireless device ban aims to do.

“We’ve had a couple people say that they thought it was only for texting because of the signs,” said Marietta Police Capt. Jeff Waite.

The text of the sign reads “NO TEXTING” beside a picture of a cell phone inside of a slashed circle. The sign goes on to say, “NO UNAUTHORIZED CELL PHONE USAGE WHILE DRIVING. ORDINANCE 333.11.”

Unlike Ohio law, which targets only texting, the Marietta ordinance makes talking on a hand-held cell phone illegal.

At Hickory Hill Meat Processing, which is directly across from one of the warning signs on Groves Avenue, employee Chris Harris said the fact that the sign emphasizes “NO TEXTING” is misleading.

“It’s very difficult to understand. Are you not allowed on your phone at all or you not allowed to just text?” asked Harris.

Marietta Safety-Service Director Jonathan Hupp, who along with Mayor Joe Matthews and City Law Director Paul Bertram had input on the sign, said he feels the signs are clear.

“To me, there’s a picture of a cell phone inside a circle with a slash…You see a picture with a cell phone slash, it means no cell phone use,” said Hupp.

If the symbol is lost on people, the remaining text about unauthorized cell phone use spells out the fact that people can not talk, said Bertram.

“It says ‘no unauthorized cell phone use’….While minimal at best, we do provide notice there is no cell phone use,” he said.

Bertram added that the signs are a courtesy, and spelling out all the nuances of the law is not only unnecessary, but impractical.

“If you listed everything, the sign would be huge,” he said.

In addition to cell phones, all other wireless electronic communication devices in the city are prohibited while drivers. For example, drivers can’t adjust a GPS device while driving.

The city singled out texting on the signs because it was the biggest issue, said Bertram.

Hupp said he feels those facing a ticket are obviously going to look for excuses, including feigning confusion about the sign.

Marietta resident Fred Hanson agreed.

“I think the ultimate reason for them being posted is very clear to everyone. They will always make excuses when they get caught,” said Hanson, 77.

Putting the cell phone away while driving is common sense, said Hanson, who added he uses the Bluetooth system in his car when driving.

Though they feel the signs are clear, city officials said they would be open to changing them if necessary.

“Everything can be improved upon. If it needs improving, we will,” said Hupp.

Covering the signs with new text would cost less than initially installing them. The cost of the initial signs was slightly more than $100 per sign.

Putting a wrap around the 14 signs would cost anywhere from $25 to $60 per sign depending on if the sign face needed to be resurfaced, according to Jimmy Kidd, Marietta assistant traffic foreman.

In the meantime, the text of the signs will not a viable excuse for not ticketing offenders, said Waite.