To text or not to text?Written by Lisa Renee Ward | | firstname.lastname@example.org
To text or not to text? Ohio House says not while driving.
On March 24, a bill similar to one Toledo City Council recently passed, banning writing, sending or reading a text-based communication on an electronic wireless communications device while driving a vehicle, came before the Ohio House.
Selected statements from the representatives made in session prior to the vote provide some of the legislators’ reasoning for and against House Bill 415.
One of the two primary sponsors of the bill, Nancy Garland (D—District 20) thanked those who helped work on the bill, including Sharon Montgomery, whose husband was killed in 2000 by a driver who was on a cell phone at the time of the fatal accident.
Garland said, “Texting while driving is a significant safety hazard that has implications for every driver on the road.” She said those who text look at their phones “4.6 seconds during a 6-second interval. This equates to driving the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour without looking at the road.”
“The time has come to prohibit drivers who text and put those around them in danger, the time has come to save lives,” said Garland before asking members of the House for their support.
Mike DeBose (D—District 12) the other main sponsor of this bill, said, “This is not a Democrat or a Republican bill, it’s a people bill.” He said he’d like to have talking on a cell phone outlawed too, “but one thing at a time.”
Matt Huffman (R—District 4) said banning the use of electronic devices of all drivers between the ages of 16 and 21 was a better idea, suggesting mature drivers had more control.
“When you receive a call, you are allowed to look at who calls [in this bill] but you can’t read a text?” he said. “We need to do something about this, but let’s do something about the real problems and not over-regulate the citizens of this state.”
Barbara Sears (R—District 46) said driving while distracted is a serious issue in Ohio. She listed behaviors she had witnessed during her drives back and forth to Columbus that are as distracting as texting. Among them were eating, drinking, holding a pet on a lap while driving, putting on makeup and shaving.
“We already have laws on the books that deal with this issue, under the Ohio Revised Code we have 4511.20 ‘Operation in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property,’” Sears said. “We don’t need a law that only highlights one thing.”
Sears said they should “go back to our law enforcement officers and say look what is already on the books and start enforcing what is already on the books.”
John Domenick (D—District 95) said, “almost eight years ago … cell phones were the popular thing, ‘oh you can’t introduce a bill on that, you’ll have all the utilities and phone people going crazy on you, you don’t want to do that John, no.’ Eight years later we’re talking about texting and ‘no we don’t want to do that, we already have laws on the books’. ”
“Let’s massage this bill, which we have just done, and let’s vote for it because we are out of the curve on this, 20-some states have this and before long we won’t have to do anything because the feds are going to take charge. We rely on the federal government to do it all, what are we here for?” Domenick said.
“We’re here to do what we are supposed to do, and that’s vote for this bill and save lives, I get tired of us always talking, talking, ‘sit down John, you’ve talked enough’,” he said to the laughter of some in attendance.
Eighty-five voted yes, 12 voted no; with 53 Democrats and 46 Republicans making up the House, the bill received bipartisan support. It now moves on to the Ohio Senate, where the 33 Senators, 21 Republicans and 12 Democrats, will decide its fate.
Toledo Free Press contributor Lisa Renee Ward is operator of the political blog Glass City Jungle.com.