Ohio law bans texting while driving


Borhan Muthana, 16, takes the Allstate Safe Driving Challenge in Detroit, Michigan, on August 27, 2012, at Comerica Park. Muthana attempts to negotiate texting and driving on a closed course. (Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

Alexis Pfeifer & Jessica Schmidt

Drivers caught texting while driving may face consequences such as fines and license suspensions, in addition to other offenses.

The ban, which became fully enforceable March 1, makes it illegal to use a handheld-electronic wireless communication device to write, send or read a text while driving in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

Gov. John Kasich signed House Bill 99 in June 2012, which prohibits any person from texting while behind the wheel of a car. The bill was put into effect Aug. 31. Ohio is the 39th state to ban texting while driving.

Since the ban went into full effect, Kent Police Lt. James Prusha said the police department does not need to do anything other than have officers start writing tickets for those pulled over for texting while driving.

However, Prusha believes this will be a difficult law to enforce.

“[Because] it’s a secondary offense for adults, I don’t really foresee us writing many of these tickets unless people admit that they were texting because we’re not going to be able to tell the difference between texting and making phone calls or using a navigational device,” Prusha said. “It’s not very enforceable in my mind.”

For adults, disobeying the ban could result in a fine of up to $150. For drivers under the age of 18, it is a primary offense to use any electronic wireless communications device, regardless whether the communication is through text, email or phone calls, according to ODPS. Motorists younger than 18 years old could face $150 fine and a license suspension for 60 days for the first violation of texting and driving.

While student drivers know it’s illegal to text and drive, some continue to do it.

“I only text when it’s super important,” said Briana Buchnowski, a sophomore pre-fashion merchandising major. “I’m from New York, and it’s been banned for a long time, so I’m used to already knowing that I’m not allowed to do it. I think at first it is going to take a while for everyone to see the punishment for it.”

One of the reasons states are cracking down on drivers is because drivers are 23 times more likely to crash if they are texting, according to a research study done by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.


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Video by Jessica Schmidt

Thaddeus France, a freshman exploratory major, said he would still text at red lights.

“I think some people don’t really care about it,” France said. “I think it will definitely help get the roads safer though.”

The minor misdemeanor charge drivers can get from texting is a result of the unsafe conditions on the roads.

Another study by the U. S. Department of Transportation showed that texting while driving was the equivalent to driving the length of a football field with the driver’s eyes closed.

While this bill may be difficult to implement, some students said drivers around campus and in the city of Kent would continue to text and drive but cautiously look for police.

“It makes me more scared,” said Taylor Pratt, a senior fashion merchandising major. “I think that I’ll slam on the brakes and run into somebody because I’m a pretty proficient texter and driver. I think people will still do it.”

While Prusha thinks the law will be a difficult one to enforce, he says that the Kent Police Department is bound by it.

“There’s already a law in place that says you have to pay full attention while driving,” Prusha said. “To me, this is kind of redundant. There’s a lot of different ways you can be distracted when you’re driving.”

Alexis Pfeifer is a city reporter for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact Alexis Pfeifer at [email protected].

Jessica Schmidt is a reporter for TV2. Contact Jessica Schmidt at [email protected].