Ohio Becomes 39th State to Ban Texting and Driving

It’s official:  texting while driving is illegal in Ohio.

Gov. John Kasich on Friday signed legislation that will now prohibit all Ohio motorists from writing, reading or sending texts while driving.

The new law also outlaws any driver under the age of 18 from using a hand-held electronic device while behind the wheel, such as an iPod, iPad, laptop, or computer tablet.

Exemptions are made for emergencies and when a car is parked and removed from the flow of traffic.

According to the ban (House Bill 99), no person shall “drive a vehicle while writing, sending, or reading a text-based communication on a handheld electronic wireless communications device.” The purpose of this law is “to establish the violation as a secondary traffic offense; to prohibit a person who is less than 18 years of age from using, in any manner, an electronic wireless communications device while driving; and to require driver education courses to include instruction in the dangers of texting while driving.”

The new texting and driving law will take effect in 90 days. But for the first six months after the bill is enforced, drivers will be issued warnings instead of tickets.

For adults, texting while driving is a secondary offense, meaning that any motorist who is caught in the act must be pulled over for violating another traffic law. Adults cited for texting while driving face a fine of up to $150.

Minors found texting and driving or using a hand-held electronic device while behind the wheel will be charged with a primary offense, which includes a $150 fine and 60-day license suspension for a first infraction. A $300 fine and one-year license suspension is punishment for repeat violations.

Since last June, the Ohio House of Representatives has been working on a texting and driving ban. The bill passed in the House on May 15, 2012 by a vote of 82-12.

Kasich said the new law will help prevent deaths caused by distracted drivers. He believes the texting ban is a “good law that was needed in our state,” as previous studies suggest that:

  • Drivers who text and drive are 20 times more likely to get in an accident or near-crash;
  • The reaction time of texting drivers is 12 percent slower than drunken drivers;
  • Distracted driving is just as dangerous as being under the influence;
  • A person going 55 mph can drive the length of a football field without looking up at the road when texting.

The statewide texting law will not override local legislation in jurisdictions that call for stricter penalties or enforcement.

Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, and Zanesville are among many Ohio cities that have banned texting while driving.

Cincinnati has had a texting while driving ban since October 2010 that outlaws sending, reading or writing a text message or using the Internet while operating a motor vehicle. A violation is a minor misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $150.

For more information about Ohio text messaging legislation, click here.

About Brittney French

Brittney is a journalist and media relations specialist who lives in St. Louis, Mo. When she's not blogging for Lebanon Ford, she is the author of a women's column and also writes about music, events, and St. Louis sports. Having little knowledge in the automotive industry, Brittney provides valuable insight on cars for those who may be in the same boat. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter @brittfrancois.