Since the calendar turned over to 2008, lawmakers in several states have taken the opportunity to pursue legislation that would prohibit drivers in their state from text messaging while driving.
Two Ohio lawmakers have introduced a bill that would make it illegal for people to operate a motor vehicle while reading, typing or sending text messages on an electronic wireless device, such as a BlackBerry.
Sponsored by Rep. Diana Fessler, R-Bethel Township, and Rep. Michael DeBose, D-Cleveland, the bill would make those activities a “secondary offense” – meaning drivers would have to be pulled over for another violation, such as speeding, before they could be ticketed for texting.
Offenders would face $250 fines. If a wreck occurred while texting, offenders also would face six-month license suspensions.
Attempts nationwide to curb the practice of using the devices while driving have picked up steam in recent months. Advocates for the ban cite a Nationwide Mutual Insurance survey that found one in five drivers texting while driving. That number nearly doubles for drivers aged 18 to 27.
If the bill is approved, Ohio would become only the third state – New Jersey and Washington – to restrict all drivers from text messaging. Similar efforts are in the works in states that include Massachusetts and Virginia.
The Ohio bill – HB425 – is in the House Infrastructure, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs Committee.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Ohio in 2008, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor