State launches law banning distracted driving
Published: Friday, September 7, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 7, 2012 00:09
Friday, Aug. 31, a ban went into effect that officially criminalized texting while driving in the state of Ohio.
The Ohio Distracted Driving Act (House Bill 99) is meant to combat the effects of distracted driving, which caused nearly 416,000 injuries and 3,092 deaths in 2010 alone, according to José Ucles, spokesperson for the National Highway Safety Administration.
The ban, which was voted on by the Ohio House of Representatives in an 88-10 vote in March of last year, serves as a secondary offense to drivers 18 or older. Police Officers cannot immediately pull someone over if they are 18 or older and seen texting while driving.
Rather, an officer must pull a person over for a primary offense, such as speeding or having a tail light out, before charging them for texting and driving, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
A charge results in a minor misdemeanor with the possibility of a $150 fine. However, punishment is much more severe for those drivers under the age of 18, according to Ucles.
“While I was not part of the legislative process,” Lieutenant Anne Ralston, Public Affairs Commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, said “this law aims to make driving safer by eliminating distractions – in particular aimed at our youngest drivers who are our most at risk group when it comes to becoming involved in a traffic crash.”
Drivers 16 to 17 years old account for nearly double the crashes per mile driven that 18 and 19 year-olds do, according to Ucles.
For these reasons, drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using not only texting devices, but any electronic devices including Bluetooth, GPS systems and speaking on a cell phone. The use of such devices is considered a primary offense, which means that drivers who appear under the age of 18 and are seen using electronic devices while driving can be immediately pulled over, even if they aren’t committing another traffic violation, such as speeding.
If a driver appears below 18 and is doing any of the above, police officers are allowed to pull them over. If they’re charged, the first offense is a 60-day license suspension and a $150 fine. Subsequent offenses can result in a $300 fine and a full-year license suspension, according to Ralston.
Although the law was officially put into effect Aug. 31, 2012, there is a 60-day grace period, which means that police will not enforce the law until that period is up.
“We will enforce [this law] like any other violation. If we see it we will take action.” Sgt. Jon Varley of the Oxford Police Department said.
According to Varley, the main concern of the Oxford Police Department lies with the amount of students that cross the street on a daily basis. “We have a lot of pedestrian traffic as well as vehicular in a relatively small space,” Varley said. “Anything we can legally do to keep it a safe environment we will do.”
While many see this ban as a way to keep pedestrians and drivers safe, some are skeptical about the new law.
“I don’t think this law is set up well.” Sophomore Isaac Hughes said. “Even if it is a secondary offense, I feel as though police officers can merely pull you over and claim that you were swerving so that they can give you a ticket for texting and driving.”
While drivers such as Hughes find issues with the intricacies regarding enforcement of the law, Sgt. Varley and the Oxford Police Department concentrate on the bigger issue at hand, the safety of Miami Students and Oxford residents. “I think it is a good bill,” Sgt. Varley said. “A lot of drivers do not realize how much distance they travel in a short period when they look away from the road even for a second, and in that time a lot can happen especially in an urban environment.”