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Ohio’s new traffic laws are good, but only a start

August 9, 2009
Morning Journal News

A couple of new traffic laws took effect in Ohio July 1 which are intended to make our highways safer.

One law requires motorists to turn their headlights on anytime they turn on their windshield wipers. The law is intended to make vehicles more visible when inclement weather darkens the skies. Although the law went into effect July 1, the measure has a six-month grace period which means officers will not be issuing citations until Jan. 1. Instead, officers will be warning motorists. This law is also a secondaary enforcement matter, which means officers can't pull you over for the offense, but a citation may be issued if you're pulled over for other infractions.

Another law now requires motor vehicles to move over when service vehicles (tow trucks, utility repair vehicles, etc.) are at work. Previous law required motorists to pull over only for emergency vehicles.

While both laws should help prevent accidents, two bigger nuisances remain - drivers using hand-held cell phones and text-messaging behind the wheel.

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute released a study on commercial truck drivers that found texting drivers to be 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or a near miss. Another study called the practice more dangerous than driving drunk.

Now the federal government is getting involved in the text-messaging debate. A bill introduced recently in the Senate would require states to write laws to prohibit text messaging by drivers or risk losing 25 percent of their annual federal highway money.

Sixteen states have already banned the practice. Perhaps now, with the threat of a federal highway fund loss, Ohio legislators will be moved into action.

We hope, however, that while considering a ban on text-messaging, Ohio lawmakers beef up the measure by banning the use of hand-held cell phones as well.



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