Barhite: New Ohio texting law adds to Toledo’s 2010 banWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
When my sister texted to ask if she could still text and drive in Ohio, I responded with a text … while I was driving.
“Not sure, let me check.”
The next day, June 1, Gov. John Kasich signed a law to ban texting while driving beginning Aug. 30. The first six months will be a warning period, which many of us will need.
The City of Toledo has had such a ban since 2010, although police only wrote four or five tickets last year, according to spokesman Sgt. Joe Heffernan. This year through April 30, one ticket has been issued. The fine is $130.
Heffernan said Toledo police typically cite drivers for another offense like “cleared assured distance.” Drivers might have been texting, which caused them to swerve or rear-end someone, but proving that might be hard if they decide to fight the charge, he said.
Although police can issue a search warrant for the cell phone, and will do so for larger, more serious accidents, it is usually easier to cite under a broader law, even if drivers have a cell phone on their laps, he said.
But the Ohio law will boost Toledo’s ban, Heffernan said, because the entire state is taking a stand against texting while driving.
“I think that it is good because of the awareness that it is illegal and dangerous,” he said.
Ohio’s texting ban has two levels. Police can cite adult drivers for texting if they are pulled over for another reason like speeding. Drivers younger than 18 who are texting or talking on their cell phones can be pulled over just for that.
The fines are $150 for adults and up to $300 for teenagers who can also lose their driver’s licenses.
Heffernan said Toledo’s law allows city officers to pull over adult drivers who are texting as a primary offense. But the provision in the state law that prohibits teens from using any electronic device at all, including talking on a cell phone while driving, will help Toledo police, Heffernan said.
According to the American Automobile Association, the crash rates for teens are about four times higher than adult drivers, and electronic devices are usually the reason for the distraction. On June 6, in a landmark decision, a Massachusetts teen was convicted of homicide because of texting while driving and will serve one year in prison.
While local numbers on accidents caused by texting aren’t kept, Heffernan said distractions are the major reason for most Toledo accidents whether talking on a cell phone, applying makeup, eating or having a pet on a lap. Texting is the just the newest distraction.
“You are more dangerous texting on the road than you are drunk,” Heffernan said.