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Hang Up & Drive: Statewide texting ban not likely in Ohio

7:30 PM, Nov 15, 2010   |    comments
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Hang Up & Drive asks drivers to download and sign the Hang Up and Drive Pledge, as a first step toward making Ohio roads safer.

Download the Hang Up & Drive Pledge form

"Triple-A would absolutely be in favor of banning texting across Ohio," says Brian Newbacher, director of Public Affairs for AAA. "Thirty other states have, and eight have banned talking on anything other than a hands-free device while driving."

But a bill banning texting, which overwhelmingly passed the Ohio House, is not likely to make it out of the Ohio Senate. Legislators there have expressed reservations about the ability of localities to enforce such a ban, and say Ohio already has laws against distracted driving which could be applied to texting.

North Royalton is one of a handful of Ohio cities which have banned both texting while driving and talking on any cell phone which is not hands-free while driving.

"You know that is very dangerous," says North Royalton police detective David Loeding. "It's obvious because you can't type as you drive. It's very, very difficult to do."

North Royalton has handed out 147 tickets since it started enforcing its bans on April 15, 2010. Each comes with a near $100 fine and two points on the violator's drivers license.

It is a "primary offense" in the Cleveland suburb, meaning police can pull over a driver if they see them texting or talking on a cell  while driving within city limits. As a law, it's on par with driving under the influence.

"We have come up behind drivers we thought were under the influence, only to find out they were texting," Detective Loeding says. "Some say they were suprised to know it's against the law in North Royalton. They'll say, 'Oh, you're that city.'" 

Proponents of a statewide ban against texting says a uniform law for the whole state is important and would be more effective than a patchwork approach by individual cities and municipalities.

"One-third of people will obey a law just because they know it is on the books," says Newbacher of the Triple-A. "And aggressive enforcement is not enough unless it is sustained."

He points to a federally funded study conducted in Syracuse, New York, and Hartford, Connecticut in which drivers who were texting or talking in violation of the law were specifically targeted. Violations quickly dropped more than 40 percent, Newbacher said, making the roads safer for everyone.

He says a program like Hang Up & Drive can be very useful in turning the Ohio public's attention toward the need for a statewide ban on texting while driving. He urged people to contact their state legislators.

"I'm sure that Ohio legislators would have to take note of that," Newbacher told WKYC. "If they call, write, and email, and call for a ban on texting we can be safer that much sooner. Otherwise it's going to take a couple years."













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