Ohio Governor Finalizes Statewide Texting Ban

Gov. John R. Kasich recently signed off on legislation in Ohio banning texting while driving, leaving few states in the U.S. without such prohibitions.

Kasich’s approval on June 1 made Ohio the 39th state to ban texting behind the wheel. The legislation behind the law, HB 99, goes into effect Aug. 31, after which there will be a six-month warning period before police begin issuing citations.

HB 99 makes texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning authorities can only issue texting citations in addition to another offense like speeding. Violations bring maximum fines of $150.

Also under the bill, the state will start requiring driver education courses to include curriculum on distracted driving and the dangers of texting behind the wheel.

The law also carries a provision prohibiting drivers under 18 years old from using any electronic device while behind the wheel, which aimed at improving safety for younger motorists, who federal research shows are killed in distraction-related crashes at a higher rate than any other age group.

Such research plays into the experience shoppers have when looking for the cheapest insurance for young drivers. Those shoppers will find that even the lowest prices for teenagers are relatively high when compared with other age groups because insurance companies charge higher premiums to younger drivers.

Minors found violating the new law will have their license suspended for 60 days, which could potentially bump up insurance rates for offenders even more. The law will be considered a primary offense for 16- and 17-year-old drivers, meaning police can ticket those motorists solely for that offense.

The legislation does not state whether older drivers’ violation of the ban would add any points to their records, which could be seen by insurance companies and result in higher premiums.

State officials said they expected no significant fiscal impact from the legislation, as small increases to law enforcement expenditures would be offset by offenders’ fines and fees.

A state fiscal analysis showed that several cities and counties in the state already have their own texting bans, including Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo, and have seen little fiscal impact from the prohibitions because of a small number of tickets. Cleveland, for example, has issued a little more than 100 citations since it enacted its ban in late 2009.

The original version of HB 99 was passed by the state House on June 28 last year. A version amended by senators, which included provisions that made the violation a secondary offense and created exemptions for drivers using voice-activated and hands-free electronic devices, was passed in the state Senate by a 25-8 vote on May 3. Those amendments were passed in a 84-12 concurrence vote in the state House on May 15.

Currently, the only states that do not have statewide bans on texting while driving are Montana, South Dakota, Arizona, South Carolina, Florida and Hawaii, although every county in Hawaii has enacted separate regulations on distracted driving. New Mexico, Oklahoma, Missouri, Mississippi have partial bans on texting behind the wheel.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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