Bill to prohibit texting while driving pending in Ohio Senate

Danni Simms | Staff Writer

Ohio drivers may be fined $150 if caught driving while text messaging, according to House Bill 415 that was passed by the Ohio House of Representatives on March 24. The bill must be approved by the Ohio Senate before it goes into law.The bill would make texting while driving a primary offense, which means that while driving, people could be pulled over by a police officer solely for being seen texting. According to Mason High School Resource Officer Troy Nelson, the law should be passed because of its ability to limit the danger that has arisen from texting and driving.

“There’s a lot of statistics out there right now that say that texting while driving is equivalent to driving while under the influence,” Nelson said. “It’s very similar, in terms of impairment level, because you’re not paying attention to your driving and, as a result of that, you can have an accident similar to [what could happen] with drunk driving.”

If the bill passes, Ohio will be the twentieth state to ban texting while driving in addition to the District of Columbia and Guam. In Ohio, communities such as Toledo, Cleveland and Akron have already banned texting while driving. Other legislation banning texting while driving includes President Barack Obama’s legislation that banned federal employees from text messaging while driving government vehicles or using a government-issued phone while driving personal cars.

Though Nelson said that he is a proponent of the proposed bill, he said that enforcement would be difficult.

“After accidents occur as a result of texting is where you’re going to see [the most enforcement],” Nelson said. “It’s going to be determined if the [driver was] texting while driving, and then there will probably be an additional penalty [if the driver was texting].”

If the bill is passed, Nelson said he does not believe there will be immediate results.

“A lot of times when you put an emphasis on something, it [decreases the magnitude of the problem] for awhile,” Nelson said. “Over the years, drunk driving has gotten so much notoriety and stricter penalties. [As a result,] drunk driving has decreased.”

Nelson said that it would be difficult to have similar statistics that show a decline in accidents caused by texting and driving and statistics about the number of people who text and drive, because of how easy it is to hide cell phones.

“It would be easy to just put your phone away and put it in your pocket, as long as it’s not a fatal accident where [a driver still has] a cell phone in hand as a result of the accident,” Nelson said. “It’s something easy to flip away, unless you have other witnesses that say ‘Well, I saw [the driver] on the phone.’”

Nelson said that while he is on patrol, however, he tends not to see people driving while using their cell phones often. Despite some drivers’ attempts to hide cell phones from police officers, Nelson said that an increase in texting while driving has been noticed by Mason police officers.

“More and more accidents are being called in as a result of driver inattention because of cell phones,” Nelson said.