Our view: Tickets for texting?

We’ve all been there. We’re sitting behind the steering wheel, headed home from work, out to meet friends or maybe just a quick jaunt to the grocery store. And that’s when we hear it: the ping or ding or other noise a cell phone makes to let us know we have a text message.

If you live in Cleveland, though, you may soon have to wait until you’ve pulled into a parking lot or off to the side of the road to check your texts. As of Monday night, Cleveland City Council voted to ban text-messaging while driving. The ordinance itself won’t take effect for at least couple months.

Cleveland will be joining the ranks of three other Ohio cities cracking down on cell-phone usage while driving: Brooklyn, North Olmstead and Walton Hills. Ohio, along with five other states, allows individual localities to decide whether or not to ban cell phone usage.

Even Kent has considered a ban on cell phone use by drivers, as reported here in October 2008.

Calling and text messaging, however, is still legal in our city and in other cities around the state.

Except in Cleveland, where drivers will be able to talk on their cell phones but not send and read text messages.

Sure, there’s plenty of legitimate, reliable research demonstrating how harmful using a cell phone – for any purpose – while driving can be. A 2005 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study showed drivers using cell phones were four times as likely to get into serious accidents. Other studies indicate talking on a cell phone and having a 0.08 percent blood alcohol level have about the same effect on an individual’s ability to drive.

Using a cell phone to make a phone call can be just as distracting as trying to answer a question using that tiny little keyboard most cell phones have. Even having a conversation with a passenger sitting in the car can be distracting.

Talking on a phone – or with a passenger – reduces a driver’s reaction time. Even hands-free cell phones don’t prove to be less of a distraction. Turns out it’s not so much holding the phone as it is the talking that poses a risk to other drivers – and yourself.

Consider that nearly 10 out of 10 drivers consider themselves safe drivers. About eight of every 10 own a cell phone. About seven of every 10 admit to using a cell phone while driving. About five of every 10 drivers say they’ve hit, almost hit or almost been hit by another car while using a cell phone.

Six states currently completely outlaw talking on a cell phone: California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Utah and Washington. Of those states, five also ban the use of cell phones for text messaging. Another five, completely different states also prohibit all drivers from text messaging. And another eight have at least a partial ban on drivers text messaging.

But how much sense does it make to ban texting and not making – or receiving – a call?

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.