Summer Safety: Texting and Driving

An article published in 2013 regarding legislation that made texting and driving a primary offense in Ohio has caused a stir online with people sharing it for the first time. With summer vacations and travel, The Daily Times realizes that it may be time to revisit this legislation again and clear up what it means for Ohio drivers.

In the state of Ohio, officers use primary enforcement of the law in regard to teen drivers, which means officers can pull over any driver under the age of 18 suspected of texting and driving.

“I’ve always been in full support of this,” said Chris Lowery, the captain of the Portsmouth Fire Department. “Texting and driving is dangerous. It takes your attention away from the task at hand, getting from Point A to Point B. It concerns me because I have two sons and that’s one of my primary dad rules, ‘Don’t let me catch you texting and driving.’ I think we’ve all encountered the aftermath of texting and driving, we’ve all seen pictures, heard stories, watched videos and the problem still persists.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 71 percent of teens admit to composing a text message while driving. Almost 80 percent of teens admit to reading a text message while driving.

In fact, texting while driving is now the top cause of death among teenagers — it has surpassed even drinking and driving, accounting for 11 preventable teen deaths every day.

“It’s something we come across often.” said Lowery. “I remember once, we made it the scene of an accident that involved texting and driving. We didn’t know if we were going to be able to get the girl out of the car in time to save her life. Luckily we were able to. I noticed her phone laying in the seat and on the screen it said, ‘Are you there yet?’ I actually picked up and texted back that she had been in an accident and was on her way to the hospital.”

But texting and driving isn’t just a teen issue, it applies to adults as well. In the state of Ohio, secondary enforcement applies to drivers over the age of 18. Secondary enforcement means that adult drivers have to be stopped, first, for some other infraction.

“It seems like people don’t realize that when you’re in that car, you’re in it to drive,” said Kevin W. Johnson, first ward councilman for Portsmouth.

Johnson has been an advocate for anti-texting and driving legislation throughout his career. Prior to the state-wide texting and driving laws, Johnson introduced legislation against texting and driving for the city of Portsmouth.

“Your car is not an office, it is not a toy, it’s not a time to play games or do anything else but drive,” said Johnson.

In a single year in the U.S., there are approximately 1.6 million car crashes involving cell phone use. Of those, 500,000 cause injuries and 6,000 are fatal.

Ohio drivers under the age of 18 caught texting or using any electronic wireless communication device while driving can face a $150 fine and a six-month license suspension for the first offense. The fine and suspension time will double after the second offense.

Adult drivers caught writing, sending or reading a text face a misdemeanor fine of up to $150.

Here are some tips from the Ohio Department of Public Safety for those who may struggle with texting and driving:

  • Designate a passenger — let a friend or a parent text for you.
  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind — put your phone in a place that you cannot access while driving, leave in the dash compartment, the trunk, the backseat, any place where you can’t find it
  • Silence is Golden — turn your phone off and leave it off until arriving at your destination.

“Just put your phone down. It’s that simple. If you need to check it, have your passenger do so or just pull over,” urged Lowery. “You’re not just putting your own life at risk, but other lives as well. It can wait.”

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The aftermath of a wreck caused by texting and driving in 2015. Put the phone down. aftermath of a wreck caused by texting and driving in 2015. Put the phone down.

By Ciara Conley

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Reach Ciara Conley at 740-353-3101 ext 1932, Facebook ‘Ciara Conley – Daily Times’ or Twitter @PDT_Ciara

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