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Ohio anti-texting bill in light of new voice-activated technologies

The precisely worded laws in the various states that apply to texting while driving will likely be under close scrutiny and reconsideration following the recent advent of technologies that allow for voice-activated texting commands.

States vary widely in the laws that are currently in place regarding texting behind the wheel. As we noted in a previous blog post (October 3), the strong empirical evidence that has surfaced regarding the direct and often fatal link between texting and car accidents has led all states to at least consider anti-texting legislation.

In fact, a clear majority of states already have laws that prohibit texting for drivers. As we have noted for our readers, Ohio is not yet one of them, although the state currently has a proposed bill working its way toward final enactment. That bill -- House Bill 99 -- would ban texting on any type of wireless device and provide for a fine of $150 for motorists observed texting.

What could become problematic for such a bill and laws elsewhere that ban texting is ambiguity that might attach when language does not specifically mention hands-free texting. Among the states that have anti-texting laws, most don't mention anything about exemptions for hands-free use. Conversely, a few -- including Indiana and Illinois -- do, and the new technologies (Apple's iPhone 4S, Vlingo, Sensory, etc.) seem to have been developed to fit neatly into these exceptions.

We will keep readers apprised of new developments concerning these laws and the evolving technologies, as well as any updates regarding Ohio legislation.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, "New hands-free phones raise legal issues" Oct. 31, 2011

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