By now, most if not all area students are back in school. Besides ensuring that our youth receive a quality education, our state rightfully places strong emphasis on keeping our kids safe. Public safety is the most important responsibility that state government has, and for young people that means not only striving to maintain safe schools, but also safe roadways.

This summer, Ohio became the 38th state in the country to ban texting while driving. The law officially goes into effect this Friday, August 31st. Prior to this, many different municipalities had already instituted texting bans of their own, but now the law extends statewide. I appreciate the school groups and families who came to the Statehouse to testify on behalf of the legislation, many of whom had experienced the loss of a loved one due to distracted driving.

The legislation, House Bill 99, bans the use of all electronic devices while driving for anyone younger than 18. This carries with it a primary offense, which means law enforcement can pull someone over solely for texting and driving. This provision was amended into the legislation by the Senate, which I believe strengthens the bill considerably.

One Senate action, however, that I feel needs to be addressed deals with making texting while driving a secondary offense for drivers older than 18. Texting while driving is dangerous regardless of age and it deserves uniform enforcement and penalty. Therefore, I intend to introduce legislation in the future that will make texting and driving a primary offense across the board.

The bill passed with overwhelming support in both the House and Senate, but some people have addressed concerns. One common argument dealt with how effectively the law could be enforced. Of course, as with any law, there is no way to catch every violator. But many of us can remember when wearing a seatbelt was not mandated by state law. Today, the state mandates that drivers and passengers wear seatbelts, and about 85 percent of Ohioans wear them.

Others brought up an infringement of personal freedoms. But it is important to consider the personal freedoms that are put at risk when someone texts while driving. The lives of drivers coming down the other side of the road are jeopardized whenever fellow drivers are distracted behind the wheel. Those personal freedoms are also worth protecting.

We cannot prevent every accident on the road, but we can take responsible measures to make the roadways safer. Today, driver’s education instructors can tell their students that texting while driving is not only dangerous, but also illegal, which is something they could not say before just a few months ago.


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