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Warning period ends for Ohio texting while driving ban

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Feb 28, 2013 at 7:07 PM

A law to ban texting while driving takes full effect on Friday following a sixth-month grace period.

Signed by Gov. John Kasich back on June 1, House Bill 99 makes texting behind the wheel illegal for motorists of all ages on a secondary enforcement basis. The offense can be cited only if another moving violation has occurred.

The bill also makes it illegal for drivers under age 18 to use an electronic wireless communications device in any manner. For novice drivers this means they can be ticketed for texting while driving and for talking on a cell phone. No ticket may be issued for a violation of either prohibition until after the six-month warning period ends Friday.

"Texting while driving is the most dangerous of all distractions behind the wheel," said Brian Newbacher, director of public affairs, AAA East Central.

"The teen driving portion of the bill is very strong and AAA supports it 100 percent. AAA would eventually like to see a primary enforcement ban for all drivers in the future but this is a great start," Newbacher said.

AAA, in cooperation with Clear Channel Outdoor and Lamar Advertising, calls on the public to heed the new law to ban texting behind the wheel. The billboards display the message "dnt txt n drv" and will appear beginning the week Feb. 25 and run for several weeks.

Motorists violating the law after the grace period would be subject to a fine of no more than $150. Teen drivers also would be subject to having their license suspended for 60 days for a first offense. The teen provisions were added to the original bill by Senator Tom Patton, chairman of the Senate Highways & Transportation Committee.

Credible research illustrates the degrading effect that text messaging has on driving performance. The AAA Traffic Safety Foundation analyzed data from a Virginia Tech study involving 100 drivers behind the wheel. It found that taking one's eyes off the road for more than two seconds doubles the risk of a crash.

Another study by the University of Utah found in 2009 that motorists driving a passenger vehicle were six times more likely to crash if they were writing, reading or sending a text message.

A recent survey of the motoring public by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 35 percent of motorists of all ages admitted to text messaging while driving. Young drivers age 16-24 were even more likely with more than half (61 percent) reporting having read a text or email while driving in the past month.

AAA announced in 2009 that it will work to pass laws banning text messaging by drivers in all 50 states, citing strong public support for the laws and the danger of distracted driving. Ohio became the 39th state to ban texting behind the wheel with AAA working for passage of a texting while driving ban for approximately four years.

In a recent AAA survey, 95 percent of Ohio AAA members support a statewide ban on texting behind the wheel.

Ohio cities including Cleveland and Beachwood ban texting on a primary basis and those laws will take precedent due to Ohio's Home Rule laws. Studies have shown texting while driving to be an extremely dangerous distraction for drivers due to the extended time (an average of 4.6 seconds) spent not looking at the road.

Space for approximately 60 billboards was donated as a public service by Clear Channel Outdoor and Lamar Advertising.

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