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Loud and clear message: No texting while driving

August 31, 2012
Salem News

If you get pulled over today when driving it might not be due to a usual reason.

A texting-while-driving ban took effect today in Ohio. If you're 18 or older, it will be illegal to write, send or read text messages while driving. The standard fine will be $150. For drivers 17 or younger, the fine is also $150, but violations also result in a 60-day license suspension.

For those 17 or younger - and driving with either a temporary or permanent license - it will be illegal to use any hand-held electronic device for any reason. That goes for texting, emailing, calling, talking, surfing, etc. That includes computing a GPS while driving. No nothing. And that eardrum piercing wail you might be hearing right now would belong to a young driver being ordered by parent to cease and desist with hand-held devices including an iPod while driving.

For those 17 and under, the new law classifies a violation as a primary offense. That means law enforcement officers can stop those young drivers solely on suspicion of being in violation. Officers can stop and ticket adult drivers only if they're also committing a primary offense, such as speeding, impaired or reckless driving and its ilk.

Ohio is the 39th state to enact a texting ban for all drivers. It is the 17th state to ban all uses of electronic devices among its youngest drivers. It is about time. Gov. John Kasich signed the ban into law in June. Officers will issue warnings to violators for six months. Then it will be pay as you go. So to speak.

Mind you, this isn't some Orwellian Big Brother attack on your individual rights. We all must admit that texting is among the biggest causes of distracted driving, regardless of age. We all must admit too that distracted driving can results in tragic results. It will be hard to enforce and we would be the first to acknowledge that law enforcement officers have enough to keep them busy while monitoring the roads. But the goal is to reduce accidents, injuries and loss of life. At the very least the threat of getting pulled over for hand-held use when driving should serve as a deterrent for most of us. And there is nothing wrong with being a safer driver. Ask someone who has been impacted or go ahead and do a web search and find some narratives regarding the hazards of texting and driving. Some are very harrowing and heart-breaking.

If you actually need evidence regarding the risks of texting consider a just-completed study by Virginia Tech. Researchers discovered that a collision risk with those texting was 23 times greater than when not texting. Drivers typically spent 4.6 seconds while reading or sending a message. At 55 mph, a driver could cover the length of a football field. Think of the possible havoc. We're not talking a simple fender bender at those speeds. Perhaps any parent reading this should stress that to a young driver while committing it to their own memories.

Granted, texting isn't the only form of distracted driving. We've all seen people with pets on their laps. We've seen people putting on makeup. We've seen people shoving fast food down their mouths while driving. We've seen people, well, reading a newspaper while driving. You get it, so do we. Admittedly most of us have all done it. We should all stop. Pure common sense tells us that.

It's a given that a texting ban was needed in Ohio. The State Highway Patrol said 31,000 crashes in Ohio and 74 deaths over the past three years have been blamed on distracted drivers. You shouldn't need a hand-held devise to get the message about texting and driving. It should be coming in loud-and-clear.



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