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Proposed texting rule a good step

May 8, 2012
The Herald-Star

Most states already ban some or all use of cellular telephones or similar devices by people operating vehicles. While Ohio has not yet done so, a bill on the subject is wending its way through the General Assembly. It includes a provision missing from many other states' bans.

Regardless of age, all drivers are treated the same in most states' laws on texting with or talking on cell phones. The measure being prepared in Ohio would have special provisions for young motorists.

Texting while driving would be a secondary offense for drivers 18 and older, under the proposed Buckeye State restrictions. That means motorists could not be stopped and cited solely for texting, but would have to be pulled over for another offense.

But 16- and 17-year-old drivers would be treated more restrictively. Use of any electronic device while behind the wheel would be a primary offense for them. Police officers could pull them over solely on the strength of witnessing violations.

On the first offense for a driver 16 or 17 years of age, a 60-day license suspension would be imposed.

Subsequent offenses could result in one-year suspensions.

No doubt high school-age Ohioans will be furious at the suggestion they should be treated more harshly than older drivers. But legislators who proposed the measure are right for many reasons.

First and foremost, young drivers who have had licenses for only a year or two have a lot to learn about safe driving. As accident rates show, they are inherently less safe behind the wheel. Add the distraction of a cell phone to that inexperience and you have a recipe for much higher accident rates.

Ohio's proposed restrictions on texting include reasonable exemptions, such as one for use of "hands-free" texting devices - but only for those 18 and older.

Without some restrictions on use of electronic devices by drivers, travelers on Ohio highways will be in greater peril. The proposed new law, with tighter rules for younger drivers, is a step in the right direction.

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