Last week, on August 31, 2012, Ohio became the 39th state to ban texting while driving.
I have to admit: I have been guilty of texting / using my GPS when I’m driving in the past. I have been making an effort to stop (common sense tells us that taking your eyes off the road for any reason isn’t safe), but this is especially true after, about two months ago, Ryan and I were hit head-on by a drunk driver who was texting. Thankfully, we were in my father-in-law’s truck, a vehicle much, much bigger than either of our cars. I was unharmed, and even though Ryan is still struggling with back and neck pain from the accident, his injuries are not nearly as bad as they could have been. The other driver wasn’t so lucky: the trifecta of dangerous driving (booze, texting and not wearing a seat belt) caused him to need medical care on site.
Obviously, texting while driving is bad news. Too many people are learning first-hand how deadly this small action can be, so I’m very glad that my home state has banned it. Below are the details of the law (courtesy of handsfreeohio.com), as well as some “FYI extras” about other cell-phone-related bans in the state.
Starting on August 31, 2012, it is now a secondary offense to text while driving a motor vehicle for all drivers. This means that while you cannot be pulled over for texting, if you are pulled over for another reason (speeding, running a red light, etc.), a ticket for texting can be added onto the primary offense.
Further, any use of a cell phone (talking or texting) or any portable electronic device (such as a GPS) is prohibited for drivers under the age of 18 years. This is a primary offense, so if you’re under 18 and talking on the phone, you can be pulled over for that alone.
While the new law is in effect, there is a six-month “warning” period, meaning officers won’t be issuing any tickets until March 1, 2013. But when the fines come, they will be coming in a big way: for adult drivers, the ticket is $150. For teens’ first violation, the ticket is $150 and a sixty-day suspension of driver’s license. For teens’ multiple violations, the fines top out at $300 and a possible loss of driving privileges for a year.
One thing to note: this law does NOT trump stricter local laws. For example, just because it’s legal for me to talk on my cell phone while driving by the State of Ohio’s law, if I’m in a city with a cell phone ban, the local law wins, and I get a ticket. I know this first-hand, as I was issued a ticket almost three years ago for talking while driving in the city of Brooklyn. Where else should you put down the cell phone completely while driving?
– Beachwood. On August 18, 2012, a full ban on handheld mobile devices went into effect. This includes laptop computers.
– Brooklyn. Since 1999, any use of a handheld mobile device has been a primary offense. Hands-free devices are allowed. The fine was $105 when I was cited (even for people who had no idea this law existed, as I was so nicely told by the police officer).
– North Olmstead. Unlike Brooklyn, all uses of mobile devices are prohibited – including hands-free devices.
– Wallton Hills. You can be fined up to $100 for using a cell phone while driving.
Be careful out there, Ohio friends! And remember: no texting while driving!