Texting While Driving is Now Illegal in Ohio

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Governor Kasich’s new law banning drivers from texting while driving takes effect today.  The law specifically outlaws “using a handheld electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication.”  In other words, for those of us who like to be smart-asses, telling the officer “I wasn’t texting, I was emailing/tweeting” isn’t going to get you out of the ticket.

There are exceptions for emergency situations, and adults are allowed to dial or answer the phone or use their GPS navigator.  Which of course leads to the question: how does the cop know just what you’re doing on your phone?  Keep in mind that they still need a search warrant to actually search your phone if they pull you over.

The law is even tougher on minors.  A kid under 18 cannot use any “electronic wireless communications device” in any manner.  That means even talking on the phone is now a traffic offense for juveniles.  Teen drivers are facing a mandatory $150 fine and a mandatory 60-day license suspension on their first offense.  Second and later offenses will land you a $300 fine and a mandatory full-year suspension.

Driving while texting is a “secondary offense” for adults, meaning that an officer cannot stop an adult just for texting; the officer must observe some other violation as well.  But trust me when I say, they will find another violation if they choose to.

There will be a six-month grace period before enforcement begins.  If you get caught before March 1, 2013, you will only receive a warning.  After that, it’s time to stop driving with your knees.