Shauna Steigerwald reports:
Ohio’s new law banning texting while driving – and prohibiting teens from using wireless communications devices in any way while driving – goes into effect Friday. Here’s what it means to you.
If you’re under 18: It’s illegal to use any electronic wireless communications device while driving in Ohio, even while sitting at a light or stuck in traffic.This means you can’t do any of the following while driving:
• Talk on a cell phone, Bluetooth, Bluetooth speakers, OnStar or any similar device
• Write, send or read a text
• Send or read e-mail
• Use computers, laptops or tablets
• Play video games
• Use a GPS (unless it’s a voice-operated or hands-free device)
• Exceptions: Using a pre-programmed GPS; using devices while the vehicle is stationary and outside a lane of travel; calls to emergency personnel (police, hospital, fire department, etc.)
If you’re an adult driver: It’s illegal to use a handheld electronic wireless communications device to write, send or read a text while driving in Ohio.
If you’re under 18: It’s a primary offense, so police can pull you over just for using wireless devices.
If you’re an adult driver: It’s a secondary offense, meaning an officer would have to stop you for another reason first.
For the first six months law enforcement will give warnings only. After that:
If you’re under 18:
First offense: $150 fine; license suspended for 60 days
Second/subsequent offenses: $300 fine; license suspended for one year
If you’re an adult driver:
It’s a minor misdemeanor; you could get a fine of up to $150.
“It just seems kind of ridiculous,” said Justin Anderson, 17, a Finneytown High School senior who has had his license for about eight months. He’s most concerned about the complete ban on cell phone use. “They created hands-free devices for a reason. What’s the difference between talking using a Bluetooth device on a phone and talking to a passenger?”
“I know a lot of people that (text while driving),” said Will Young, 16, a junior at Finneytown who recently finished driving school. “I know my parents are against it and I understand why. I do think it’s dangerous, you’re taking your eyes off the road.”
Jim Reeb, whose oldest son, Eddie, is a 16-year-old junior at Finneytown and will get his license Friday, the same day the law takes effect, thinks it’s a good idea.
“I think it makes a lot of sense,” he said. “There’s a lot to think about when you’re a new driver, and that’s just one distraction that doesn’t need to be there.”
Kristina Schwartz is a guidance counselor and teacher at McAuley High School and mom of Emmy, a 17-year-old senior there. An adviser for the school’s Life Club, which, for the past two years, has offered programs to raise awareness about the dangers of texting and driving, she believes the new law will have an impact on teens’ behavior.
“Teenagers tend to do things as long as they can get away with it and don’t think about the long-range consequences,” she said. “But if there’s a law or rule, they tend to think twice.”
According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety/Bureau of Motor Vehicles:
• 40 percent of American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger (Pew Research Center).
• 50 percent of teens surveyed admit to texting while driving (AT&T Poll, 2012).
• Texting while driving takes your eyes off the road for about five seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field – 100 yards – with your eyes closed (U.S. Department of Transportation).
• You are 23 times more likely to crash while texting and driving (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute).
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