Ohio texting-while-driving ban begins Friday

Angela Pino,Andy Jardy

KentWired Video

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Video by Andy Jardy.

Starting Friday, texting while driving will be illegal.

Officer Michquel Penn, community resource officer for the Kent State University Police Department, said while the ban goes into effect today, drivers are being given a six-month grace period before tickets will be given.

Penn said the first offense is a fine of $150, and the second offense is a fine of $300 for any driver 18 and under. Offenders also face the possibility of having their license suspended for 60 days.

For drivers 19 and over, Officer Penn said texting while driving is a secondary offense, meaning that drivers cannot be pulled over unless they disobey another traffic law; however, it is a primary offense for drivers 18 and younger.

“You notice a difference in driving when texting,” Penn said. “We’ve had calls reporting drunk driving but when we got there, they were texting.”

Jim Prusha, administrative lieutenant at Kent Police Department, said there are a few exceptions to the ban including scrolling through a cellphone contact book and using a navigation system such as a GPS. For underage drivers, any type of device that can distract attention is illegal.

Prusha said the ban will be hard to enforce, and he does not see many tickets being given. Even if a person is pulled over for breaking a traffic law and texting is suspected, police cannot look through the driver’s phone without a warrant.

Penn said a driver can’t be pulled over just because they look 18 or under. To determine the driver’s age before being pulled over, police will run the license plate of the car to see if it is registered to someone 18 or under; if it is, they can be pulled over.

Prusha said even if drivers are at a stop sign or a stop light, texting is still illegal.

“The car must be outside of lane of travel,” Prusha said.

Junior architecture major Belana Antar said she is occasionally guilty of texting while driving and was informed of the ban through a television commercial.

“I will be more discreet about texting while driving,” Antar said. “I wish I could stop, but I see texting as an addiction.”

Daniel Likar, freshman interior design major, said he does not text while driving and hopes that the ban will help stop others.

“I keep my eyes focused on the road,” Likar said.

Penn and Prusha said enforcing the ban will not cost the campus or city police any extra money.

Contact Angela Pino at [email protected].