Texting while driving law takes effect Friday

MARTINS FERRY – Still feel the need to text and drive? That message you sent could soon cost more than your standard carrier charges.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed H.B. 99 into law on June 1. It took effect in Aug. 31.

However, there was a provision in the law that drivers were to be issued warnings only until a set expiration date. That date is Friday.

Law enforcement officers can now begin issuing citations.

Officers in Martins Ferry, however, have been doing so since June of 2010. That is when the city passed a specific texting while driving ban.

Because of that ordinance, violators within Martins Ferry city limits have been cited, despite the warning edict for the rest of the state.

People, teens and adults, still text while driving all the time. But as Martins Ferry Police Chief John McFarland noted, catching people is the difficult part.

“When I’m sitting in my personal vehicle, I see people texting all the time,” McFarland said. “But in my patrol car … people are a little more cautious and use more sense.

“But it’s a problem because any time you take your eyes off the road, even for just a second, it puts yourself and everyone around you in jeopardy.

How much danger you ask? Consider this.

McFarland noted that despite the city’s law going into action more than two years ago, he estimated that probably less than 10 have been successfully cited.

And the easiest method to catch them?

“The situation we’ve run into is that, from out initial observation, we’re following a vehicle that appears to be driven in a manner the officer believes the driver is intoxicated,” McFarland said. “The officer makes the stop and asks the drive about his habits and they explain that they were texting.”

For vehicular accidents, officers can subpeona phone records to determine if any messages were sent or received around the time of the accident in looking for determination of cause.

But the idea of this law is to cut down on the accidents caused by texting before they happen.

The public safety law prohibits adult drivers from texting while driving. This includes sending, receiving and reading text messages.

Violations are classified as a minor misdemeanor and are a secondary offense. Adult drivers must be performing another violation to be cited.

The law is more stringent for teenage drivers.

Teens are unable to send, receive or read text messages while driving. They also are not allowed to do so while sitting at a late or start in traffic.

No phone calls either. While adults are not banned from making a call while driving, teens are.

Underage drivers cannot use computers or tables, play video games or utilize a GPS that is not voice-operated or hands-free.

For teens, the first offense will cost you $150 in fines and a 60-day drivers’ license suspension. Additional violations are $300 and come with a one-year license suspension.

Also, for teens, this is a primary offense. No other violations have to occur for teenage drivers to be pulled over for violating this law.

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