Officials say teen drivers who get caught violating the new law could receive a $150 fine and a 60-day license suspension.
A new law will be implemented in Ohio, Friday, in an attempt to make state roadways a little safer. It makes the use of cell phones while driving a primary offense for drivers under the age of 18 and a secondary one for other adults. This means authorities won’t need any other reason to pull over a teen driver.
“Drivers really need to have their attention focused on driving, otherwise it can create a very dangerous situation for everyone,” said Vonda Kern, coordinator of the Ross County Safe Communities Program. “This is really about common sense and respect for others.”
The new law prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from talking on a cell phone, texting, emailing, or using a cell phone as a hand-held GPS (unless it has been pre-programmed); it also outlaws the use of tablets and video games – all even while stopped at a traffic light or in a traffic jam.
From 2009 to 2011, according to police reports in Ohio, 31,231 crashes were caused by distracted driving. Seventy-four fatalities and 7,825 injuries resulted from distracted driving crashes. In Ross County during that time frame, 160 crashes were blamed on distracted driving.
“Of course, not all of those crashes involved cell phones or texting, but it is a growing problem,” said Kern, citing a June 2011 study found that in all, an astonishing 196 billion text messages were sent or received in that one month alone.
Earlier this year the Safe Communities program did an informal survey and found that 23 percent of drivers were distracted, with cell phone use being the most common.
Rami Yoakum, with Ross County Safe Communities, said that the penalty for a teen who texts while driving is a $150 fine and a 60-day suspension of his or her license.