For many teenagers and young adults, getting a driver's license is a significant occasion, perhaps even a rite of passage. Teen drivers gain newfound independence, but their relative lack of experience behind the wheel makes them much more likely to be involved in an accident. A March 2012 study by the American Automobile Association found that teen car crash rates are nearly four times greater than those of adult drivers. While accidents can be caused by a variety of factors, distracted driving often plays a major role in these incidents. This is true now more than ever before. Today's teens face distractions that prior generations did not have, such as cell phones and other electronic devices, and texting while driving has become a far too common practice behind the wheel.

What makes this activity so dangerous? Texting while driving significantly slows reaction times in ways comparable to drunk driving. It causes drivers to take their eyes off the road for several seconds - enough time to travel the length of a football field at 55 mph. A lot can happen in that time frame, as shown by countless stories in which people have been seriously injured or even killed by another driver who was texting.

The Ohio Legislature passed a law earlier this year that bans this dangerous activity in an attempt to help keep all motorists safe. Ohio's texting ban went into effect August 31, making us one of roughly 40 states that ban texting while driving.

Under the new law, drivers under the age of 18 are banned from using electronic wireless communication devices while driving. Exceptions are made in cases of emergency, when the car is in a parked position outside the lane of travel, or if the teen is using a navigation device that is voice-operated and hands-free. Teen drivers who violate the law face a $150 fine and a 60-day license suspension for their first offense, while repeat offenders will be subject to a $300 fine and a year-long license suspension.

Texting while driving is never safe, no matter the age of the driver. For adults, texting while driving is a secondary offense punishable by a $150 fine. As with minors, exceptions to the law are made for cases of emergency and other limited circumstances.

Law enforcement will not begin issuing tickets until February of next year, but has already begun educating the public about the new ban. In addition, the new law does not supersede any local regulations regarding texting and driving.

Drivers - especially younger ones - should be free from distractions and focused on the road at all times. While we will never be able to completely eliminate all distractions, Ohio's new law is a positive step in helping to keep all those on our roads and highways as safe as possible.

As always, I welcome your questions and concerns about any of the matters we are discussing at the Statehouse. My office can be reached by phone at (614) 466-7505, by e-mail at or by writing State Senator Larry Obhof, Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43215. I look forward to hearing from you.
Senator Obhof represents the 22nd Ohio Senate District, which encompasses all of Medina, Holmes and Wayne counties as well as portions of Ashland County. For more information, please visit
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