Senate Tweaks Texting Bill

ST. MARYS — A local law enforcement official says if legislators are serious about banning texting while driving, they should make it a primary offense.

On Thursday, members of the Ohio Senate voted 25-8 in favor of banning texting while driving as well as making it illegal for minors to use electronic devices while driving. The bill would make texting with hand-held devices a secondary offense for adults and a primary offense for minors — meaning a minor could be pulled over for the offense. For adults, a violation would be a minor misdemeanor, subject to a fine of up to $150.

Minors could be fined $150 for the first offense and have their license suspended for 60 days. Repeat minor offenders could face a $300 fine and get their license taken away for a year. Minors would be allowed to use hands-free GPS devices and would have to be stopped and off the roadway in order to use an electronic device.

“The way I look at it, distracted driving is distracted driving, regardless of age,” St. Marys Police Chief Greg Foxhoven told The Evening Leader.

“I don’t know that it matters that you are young and texting versus being older. I’m not sure I understand the logic.”

Members of the Ohio House passed a version in June that would have made texting while driving a primary offense. That measure, which was approved 88-10, languished in the Senate for months.

“I think they settled on a secondary offense,” Foxhoven said of the senators. “I think it’s a step in the right direction but we will know they are taking this serious when they make it a primary offense.”

As a secondary offense, Foxhoven said officers would have to observe drivers committing another infraction before a driver can be ticketed for texting while driving. For example, a driver who ran a red light while texting could be pulled over for running the red light and also be ticketed for the texting while driving violation.

“We all recognize it’s a serious problem and serious problems need serious solutions,” Foxhoven said.

“They (legislators) just make the laws, we have to enforce them. I don’t think they took that into consideration. It’s better than nothing and I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction, but we have to get serious and make it a primary offense so we can make the motoring public as safe as possible.”

Foxhoven said the number of local drivers texting while driving astonished him.

“I do see it quite a lot,” Foxhoven said. “It almost makes you shake your head when you see people going through intersections texting.”

The measure now goes back to the House for a vote. If passed, it would then land on Gov. John Kasich’s desk for his signature.