The ban takes effect 90 days after the June 1 signing, at the end of August. A six-month warning period will follow in which police will not write tickets but may make stops.
The new Ohio law has two levels of enforcement: There is secondary enforcement for adults who text messaging while driving. This means that police need another reason to stop and cite violators, such as speeding.
For drivers under the age of 18, however, texting and use of other portable electronic devices will be a primary offense.
Fines for adult violators are set at $150. For teen violators, the fines top out at $300 with the possible loss of license.
Ohio became the 39th state to ban text messaging while driving.
Kasich signed the legislation surrounded by the families of people killed by distracted drivers. He held up the photos of two victims, Keith Homstad Jr. and Dalton Ludwig. “This is why we are doing this,” the governor said.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood praised Ohio’s efforts to halt teen distracted driving: “I commend Gov. Kasich and the Ohio legislature for taking an important stand against the dangers of texting while driving today. … We are especially encouraged by its focus on young drivers, who are more likely to engage in distracted driving.”
The distracted driving measure, however, did not find success without controversy. Critics pointed out that the distracted driving bill was watered down as it made its way through the General Assembly.
The Senate heavily amended the original House proposal, limiting most enforcement to secondary status. The House went along, and House Bill 99 was sent to Kasich.
The Senate’s other major change to the legislation was the full ban on use of handheld electronic communications devices by drivers under the age of 18.
State Reps. Rex Damschroder, R-Sandusky County, and Nancy Garland, D-New Albany, spearheaded the distracted driving legislation.
Ohio’s General Assembly almost certainly has not concluded its debates over distracted driving. Similar laws passed in other states typically inspire bills calling for primary enforcement. And the new measure does not address cell phone use by adults, unless they are text messaging.
The new texting law allows for stricter local laws. Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus, Delaware, Belpre, Berea and Zanesville are among the many Ohio cities that already banned texting & driving.
Cleveland is considering a ban on use of handheld cell phones by drivers.
The county that includes Cleveland (Cuyahoga) has been particularly hard hit by distracted driving accidents.