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No-texting-while-driving bill currently before Ohio Senate

Ohio House Bill 99 bans texting while driving and will become law if it passes the Ohio Senate and is signed by Gov. John Kasich. Thirty-four other states have already enacted such legislation , based on strong and sobering empirical evidence that many thousands of fatal car accidents are caused in the United States each year by people texting, reading or otherwise being distracted while driving.

Representative Nancy Garland, D-New Albany, while speaking in support of the law at a recent rally, said that, “Drivers who text take their eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds in a 6-second period.” At 55 miles per hour, she notes that being distracted for that amount of time is like driving the length of a football field without even looking at the road.

The proposed bill prohibits writing and sending a text message on any type of mobile communication device. The violation would be a primary traffic offense. If the bill passes, it provides for a six-month warning period. After that period elapses, drivers caught texting would pay a fine of $150.

Currently, prosecutors pursue most cases involving texting and accident fatalities as misdemeanors, although felony charges are brought in a minority of cases. Commentators note that the division — whether to convict a defendant on a misdemeanor or felony charge — often comes down to whether a judge or jury regards the driver’s behavior as negligent or reckless.

Related Resource: Youngstown Vindicator, “Ban texting and driving in Ohio, and begin saving lives” Sept. 28, 2011