By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
With Portsmouth City Council considering a “texting while driving” ban, State Rep. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, says the Ohio House of Representatives took a step Tuesday toward what they say will improve safety on Ohio’s roads by concurring on Senate changes to Substitute House Bill 99, which makes texting while driving a secondary traffic offense.
The legislation specifically prohibits driving a vehicle while using a handheld electronic communications device to write, send or read a text-based communication. Johnson said it also establishes certain exemptions, including using the device for emergency purposes, a person driving a public safety vehicle who uses such a device in the course of the person’s duties, and using a device for navigation purposes.
“This is a common-sense bill that will save lives within our communities and make our roads and highways safer,” Johnson said.
The Ohio Senate included an amendment to specify the violation as a primary offense for drivers under 18 years of age, with penalties for first offenses as a $150 fine and a 60-day license suspension, and a $300 fine and one-year license suspension for subsequent offenses.
Lt. Karla Taulbee, commander of the Portsmouth Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, said she has not been briefed on the law, but it should be enforceable.
“Yes, it’s enforceable,” Taulbee said. “The primary offense means that if we see someone texting, who is 18 or younger, we can stop them for that offense alone. The other is a secondary violation only. That is, if we stop somebody, for something such as speeding or running a red light or something, and they’re also texting, and we can see their phone in their hand, then we can cite them for that.”
Taulbee said it is often detectable when people are texting while driving.
“When you are driving down the road you will see people who are texting, because it is obvious,” Taulbee said. “Sometimes you can see them holding the phone up, and see them texting, so you will be able to determine they are texting while driving. The only difference will be what the governor is going to do — if he is going to go with that secondary or with the primary for those 18 and under.”
Sub. H.B. 99 passed by a vote of 82-12 and will now be sent to Gov. John Kasich for his signature.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.