Cleveland bans texting while driving

Kristyn Soltis

Could cost drivers up to $500 in fines

As a result of the new law banning texting while driving, this “(no) texting while driving” billboard was put up on Carnegie Road in Cleveland. Brittany Schenk | Summer Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Click here for an interactive graphic of texting bans across the United States.

For more information about the bans, visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Web site.

Beginning July 19, it will be illegal for Cleveland motorists to text message or e-mail while driving.

Alissa McMasters, 22, lives in West Park in Cleveland and admits to texting while driving, although she tries to do it when stopped.

While McMasters said she doesn’t feel the need to be in constant contact with people, she does need her phone nearby.

“I go crazy without my phone,” McMasters said. “I usually have it right next to me.”

A Nationwide Insurance survey found almost two-thirds of drivers who own cell phones say they’re expected by family, friends or employers to always be reachable by phone or another communication device.

Although talking on the phone while driving is still legal, Cleveland’s City Council voted 19-2 on April 13 to outlaw text messaging on cellular phones while driving.

The ban follows a six-month-long push by Councilman Zack Reed, who sponsored the ordinance.

Reed said drivers will not have to be pulled over for another offense in order to be caught texting while driving.

“It’s not like the seatbelt law where you have to be doing something else. This is a primary offense, so if you were texting while driving, or e-mailing while driving or Twittering while driving, you can be picked up and given a ticket,” Reed said.

A first offense of texting while driving will result in a fine of $100, $250 for the second offense and up to $500 for a third offense.

Reed said officers will have to be able to assess whether or not drivers are simply dialing a phone number or sending a text message.

“Once you finish dialing a phone number, you put the phone up to your ear. So if you’re messing around with your keyboard and you don’t put the phone up to your ear after about a minute, I think the officer is going to know you’re texting and driving,” Reed said.

McMasters agrees it is not difficult to determine whether someone is texting or making a call.

“You can easily tell the difference, I think,” McMasters said. “I bet a lot of people are going to try and say they were calling someone though.”

While there hasn’t been a lot of research on texting and driving, two studies of young drivers using driving simulators – one conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory in Britain and the other conducted at Monash University in Australia – found that receiving and sending text messages altered driving behavior and particularly reduces reaction time and lane-keeping ability.

“I try to text when I’m at a light or stopped,” McMasters said. “I can’t really pay attention and drive.”

A public awareness campaign began last Monday to inform Cleveland motorists of the new law.

Clear Channel Outdoor and have donated billboards and promotional cards. There will also be approximately 65 road signs near city entrance ways to remind drivers.

A text-messaging ban has already been enacted for all drivers in 14 states and the District of Columbia.

There are also locality bans that have already been enacted in Ohio, banning cell phone use in North Olmstead and Walton Hills.

While no definite plans to spread the ban to Kent City or Portage County are on the horizon, last September, Kent City Council unanimously passed a motion made by Councilman John Kuhar to begin legislation banning cell phone use within city limits.

Contact principal reporter Kristyn Soltis at [email protected].