An attempt to give Osage Beach police officers the legal authority to ticket traffic violators in private parking lots and to ticket motorists for a broad range of distracted driving incidents drew nearly a half hour of discussion among board members without any decisive action.

An attempt to give Osage Beach police officers the legal authority to ticket traffic violators in private parking lots and to ticket motorists for a broad range of distracted driving incidents drew nearly a half hour of discussion among board members without any decisive action.

At the regular board of aldermen meeting June 15, City Attorney Ed Rucker presented proposed revisions to an existing ordinance expanding the definition of careful and imprudent driving within the city.

An OBPD officer frustrated with the department's inability to write C&I tickets within major but private parking lots such as at Walmart, Target, Lowe's, etc., took his concern to Rucker after his research revealed that other Missouri communities have the same problem.

The city's current ordinance addresses C&I matters on public streets, but not private streets, private parking lots or personal property.

The proposed ordinance would extend the provision of careless and imprudent driving to "every square inch of the city. That is, you cannot put life or limb of an individual in danger anywhere, not just on public streets," he explained.

The challenge, city officials discovered, is how to delineate between safety on major private parking lots and an individual's private property - if the action of a motorist of any type of vehicle is creating unsafe conditions that would endanger the property of another or the life or limb of any person.

The second change in the C&I ordinance involves ticketing for distracted driving for more than just texting, which has been the focus of statewide discussion in recent years. Currently, Rucker said, the city does not have the authority to tell a driver how they handle themselves in their vehicles.

Under the proposed ordinance, the city would not be concerned only with the use of an electronic device while driving. The new language addresses specific behaviors, not the tools or devices used by the operator a motor vehicle.

It creates the presumption that certain activities are careless and imprudent in certain situations.

"We care about the operation of a motor vehicle without exercising the highest degree of care," Rucker explained. "We care about a driver that does anything that districts him or her, including reading a book, or applying makeup, combing your hair, checking your GPS, any actions that we believe will comprise your driving. You shouldn't be driving down the Osage Beach Expressway at 65 mph reading a book or paying attention to anything other than what you're supposed to be doing."

Pushback

The possibility of OBPD officers having the authority to issue a summons on a person's private property rankled some board members, who said they felt that giving an officer that authority could cross the line between a person's right to conduct themselves on their own property and doing something illegal.

"We can't write tickets on a private parking now, and we're trying to fix that," Attorney Rucker explained.

Police Chief Todd Davis said the ordinance is directed more at major parking lots. If a driver runs a stop sign within a private parking lot, or on a private street, and hits a pedestrian officers don't have the legal authority to write a summons.

"This comes up because officers get called to a parking lot and can't write a ticket," Rucker said.

The board failed to reach a consensus as to specific language, so the proposed legislation was effectively tabled so Rucker could redraft the ordinance for consideration at a future board meeting.

He urged aldermen to contact him with their concerns so he could create an ordinance that better addresses the C&I issues on private property and for distracted texting.