Texting ban passes Legislature.
Here is the article.
May. 16, 2012 |
COLUMBUS -- A statewide texting-while-driving ban that could be tricky
to enforce cleared the Ohio Legislature on Tuesday and was headed to the
governor's desk for his expected signature.
The House cleared the measure on a 82-12 vote. The Senate passed it this
All drivers would be banned from texting, though young drivers could
more easily be pulled over for it.
That's fine by 17-year-old Salome Beneye of Columbus.
"It should be more strictly enforced toward teens," Beneye
said in a phone interview. "I'm not saying it shouldn't toward adults as
well, but I feel like teens have a better chance of getting in greater
accidents than adults would."
Beneye, who's had her license since November, said she doesn't make
phone calls or text while driving thanks in part to a series of pictures
highlighting distracted driving accidents that were shown in her drivers'
"It's really scary," she said. "No text or phone call is
worth my life."
The bill would make texting with hand-held devices a secondary offense for
adults. That means drivers could be ticketed for typing emails or instant
messages only if they were first pulled over for another offense, such as
running a red light.
The measure is tougher on teen drivers. Texting or using an electronic
device while driving would be a primary offense for those under age 18. Minors
could not use their cellphones, iPads, laptops or other electronic devices
while driving unless there's an emergency.
Minors could be fined $150 for the first offense and have their license suspended
for 60 days. Repeat offenders could face a $300 fine and get their license
taken away for a year. Teens could have hands-free GPS navigation devices, but
they couldn't use other electronic devices unless an emergency arises, or the
vehicle was stopped and off the roadway.
The measure would be among the broadest in the country in terms of teen
distracted driving restrictions, according to the Governors Highway Safety
Association. Texting while driving is prohibited in 38 states, the organization
has found. An additional five states prohibit text messaging by new drivers.
Some states, such as such as Connecticut and Washington, also ban young
or new drivers from using wireless devices even if it's hands-free.
Democratic Rep. Nancy Garland, the bill's co-sponsor, said it would make
Ohio's roads safer. She recounted stories brought to her by constituents,
fathers and wives whose relatives died from distracted drivers who were
"It is time to end these tragedies," Garland, of New Albany,
told her colleagues.
The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police supports the legislation. However,
the group's president has said the organization would have preferred that
texting be a primary offense for all drivers because it would have been easier
"You're asking a law enforcement officer to determine at 30 mph
whether someone is under 18 or not, so that's a challenge," said Jay
McDonald, Ohio FOP president.
Still, McDonald said the measure is a good first step in cracking down
on the problem of distracted driving among teens. "That's who we think are
the most vulnerable drivers," he said in a recent interview.
The measure also gives officers an avenue to investigate whether texting
has played a role in a crash or traffic accident, McDonald said. "It will
enable us to get a warrant and look into it much more thoroughly than we did
Ohio's bill would make texting behind the wheel a misdemeanor for
drivers, with possible fines of $150. The measure wouldn't trump city
ordinances on texting or cellphone use that might be tougher.
The legislation is a weaker statewide texting ban than an earlier
version that the House passed in June. That version had made texting a primary
offense, but it didn't include the crackdown on teen drivers.
The switch to the secondary offense came amid concerns in the Senate
about how the law would be enforced by authorities. Senators had wrangled with
concerns about enforcement since the bill stalled in their chamber last fall.
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