Friday, June 1, 2012

Ohio outlaws "texting and driving"

Today the governor signed a law that prohibits texting and driving. Here are some questions and answers about the legislation:

Q: When will the law take effect?

A: The law takes effect 90 days from today, which is Aug. 30. Law enforcement officers can’t issue tickets or citations for the first six months after the effective date. However, they can give drivers a warning and provide information about the ban and using electronics.

Q: How will the ban work?

A: The law will make texting with handheld devices a secondary offense for adults. That means drivers can be ticketed for typing emails or instant messages only if they were first pulled over for another offense, such as running a red light or not stopping at a stop sign.

Q: How is it tougher on teen drivers?

A: The measure bans drivers younger than 18 from using cellphones, iPads, laptops or other electronic devices. They can’t make calls or browse the Web while driving. Texting or using an electronic device is a primary offense for minors, so they can more easily get ticketed if an officer catches them violating the ban.

Q: Are there any exemptions?

A: Yes, several. The measure does allow all drivers to text and use their cellphones in cases of an emergency, and when the vehicle is stopped and off the road. Adult drivers cannot be cited for typing in a number or a name to make a call, among other exemptions.

Q: Can drivers still use hands-free devices, such as those that allow voice-operated texts?

A: Yes, but only adult drivers.

Q: What about hands-free GPS navigation devices?

A: Yes. And teens can use them, too, but they can’t manipulate them while driving.

Q: What are the penalties for breaking the law?

A: Ohio’s law makes texting a misdemeanor for drivers, with possible fines of $150. Minors can be fined $150 for the first offense and have their license suspended for 60 days. Repeat teen offenders can be fined $300 and have their license taken away for a year. The measure won’t trump city ordinances on texting or cellphone use that might be tougher.

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