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Lawmakers should act on distracted driving bills

February 6, 2012
Morning Journal News

A bill that should have been a slam-dunk for passage continues to languish in the Ohio Senate and now another important safety bill has been introduced there as well.

House Bill 99, the distracted driving bill, which bans text-messaging while driving, was passed by the Ohio House last June but remains stalled in the Senate Highways and Transportation Committee. Also recently filed in that committee is Senate Bill 35, which seeks to prohibit use of handheld communications while driving (hands-free operation OK.)

Restrictions on cellphone usage while driving are desperately needed in Ohio to help make our highways safer, but neither of these proposed bills carries strict enough penalties to discourage violators.

HB 99 would impose fines up to $150 and SB 35 would be secondary enforcement, meaning motorists could only be cited for this violation after being pulled over for another infraction and then the fine would be only $30.

Since our state is already lagging in instituting these safety measures, why not put some teeth into these bills by increasing the penalties incurred by violators before the bills are passed.

Seventeen states already have restrictions on cell phone usage while driving, although none have a total ban on cell phones which would be the net effect of HB 99 and SB 35.

Several Ohio cities have grown tired of waiting for the legislature to act and have taken the initiative and passed their own ordinances prohibiting texting while driving within their municipalities.

Kettering, the latest town to ban text messaging while driving, passed a law in December which went into effect Jan. 3. The Kettering mayor noted that House Bill 99 "doesn't seem to be moving through the Senate very quickly."

We agree and hope that the actions of these Ohio towns will prod the Senate into action on this important safety issue.



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