The new signs around Marietta notifying drivers of the city law banning cell phone use while driving are hard to miss.
But though the 14 signs are large and spread out throughout the city, their meaning isn't exactly crystal clear, especially for those visiting who aren't already familiar with the change.
The signs read "NO TEXTING" next to an image of a phone inside a circle with a slash through it. The next line reads "NO UNAUTHORIZED CELL PHONE USAGE WHILE DRIVING. ORDINANCE 333.11."
City officials say in order to be more clear the sign would have to be too large or too wordy.
But using the same number of words, they could have read "No texting. No hand-held cell phone usage while driving." That's a one-word difference that is much more clear than "No unauthorized cell phone use." Only those already familiar with the law are going to know what's "unauthorized" without looking it up. Why be unnecessarily vague?
Other states and municipalities have been able to sum up similar laws in even fewer words, and with a more precise meaning.
Some say "No hand-held electronic devices." Or there are signs that read "No texting. No talking." with the cell phone image. Others say "Only handsfree devices allowed" or "No cell phone use."
These all make it very clear that it's not just texting that's forbidden.
Some say having the image of the cell phone with a slash through it makes the meaning of the ordinance clear. But having that image right next to "No Texting" is misleading for some.
Ignorance of the law is never an excuse for breaking the law. Citizens have a responsibility to make sure they're informed. But if the city is going to spend money on signs to spread awareness of the ordinance, why not make the message as unmistakable and informative as possible?
We support the city in passing this legislation. We think it's the right move and we're glad our officials felt the same. However, we think the language on the signs is a misstep.
To make a change would cost less than $100 per sign. We think it would be worth that price, in order to help spread this message and possibly make the roadways safer.