Capital News: Further proof that Ohio's texting-while-driving ban isn't working

by MARC KOVAC | CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published:

Columbus -- I drive the highways around Ohio's capital city just about every day of the week.

And every day, I get stuck behind some knucklehead who's too busy playing on his "smart" phone to pay attention to the road.

Every day, I sit patiently behind people who swerve across multiple lanes of traffic or onto shoulders or who refuse to drive within 15 mph of the posted speed limit, so engrossed in whatever text conversation they're having that they're oblivious to the danger they're creating for themselves and the rest of the driving public.

You can honk your horn, flash your headlights and stare disapprovingly at them, but it doesn't change the behavior.

I've complained about this trend in the past, and I haven't minced words about the joke of a texting-while-driving ban enacted by lawmakers a couple of years ago that is doing little to curb electronic communications from behind the wheels of moving motor vehicles.

Some statistics released by the State Highway Patrol last week confirm the ludicrousness of it all.

Since the texting ban took effect a year ago, a total of 230 adults have been cited along with another 43 teens. That's 270-some people caught on highways and other routes covered by the State Highway Patrol who were blatantly sending messages on the road.

By my count, there were no violations reported in about 30 of the state's 88 counties. In Franklin County, where I live, only five citations were issued to adults.

That's right, five. I see more than five people texting while driving during my morning or evening commutes.

The patrol also reported only three teens in the Columbus area cited for the infraction during the past 12 months.

There's a school around the corner from my house. Come over some weekday when it's in session and you'll see a lot more than three teens focused on their touchscreens instead of the road.

(Side note: The Ohio Department of Health released a survey of teen behavior last week in which 46 percent admitted to texting or emailing while driving.)

I understand that enforcing the state's texting ban is problematic. For adults, it's a secondary offense, meaning drivers have to be doing something else illegal (speeding, running stop signs, etc.) in order to get pulled over.

State Rep. Rex Damchroder (R-Fremont), the original sponsor of the bill, said he is pursuing making texting while driving a primary offense. That would at least send a message to the driving public that the activity will not be tolerated.

And before you go shouting "nanny state" nonsense, consider these other statistics released by the State Highway Patrol: Since January 2013, a total of 371 crashes involved individuals who were texting or sending other electronic messages while driving. Of those, six resulted in fatalities. Another 128 caused injuries and 227 caused property damage.

Drivers on highways around Ohio's capital city display their incompetence in plenty of other ways on a regular basis. The few of us with common sense should not have to contend with people texting while driving on top of it.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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