Driving has long been an indispensable mode of transportation in America and around the world. We drive to work, to buy groceries, and to drop off and pick up our children at school. For many of us, we depend on cars to get us where we are going in most situations. While driving may be a common occurrence in our lives, we all still appreciate the dangers that come with this daily activity. When we think of the hazards of the road, our minds may automatically go to impaired drivers or inclement weather. However, there are other risky behaviors and situations that can turn a quick trip to the store into a dangerous journey.
Texting while driving is one such behavior, and it has become increasingly common in recent years, especially among teenagers. Distracted driving of any sort can be as deadly as getting behind the wheel after drinking, and this particular form has needed to be addressed for some time. To this end, House Bill 99 was signed into law at the beginning of June. The legislation places a secondary offense on texting while driving. Specifically, the bill bans the use of a handheld electronic communications device to read or write a text-based message while operating a motor vehicle.
There are a few exemptions and special stipulations to House Bill 99. First of all, the legislation allows for the use of these devices in an emergency, for navigation, and for an individual operating a public safety vehicle who uses the gadget in his or her job. Secondly, under the bill, drivers younger than 18 years old are subject to a primary offense for violating the new ban. A first offense for this age group will carry a 60-day license suspension and a $150 fine, and any further offenses will result in a one year license suspension and a $300 fine.
The importance of these measures can be seen in the widespread support for this bill, both within the state legislature and throughout our communities. In the Statehouse, the bill sparked bipartisan collaboration. I myself became a co-sponsor of the legislation because I have seen just how detrimental distracted driving can be. Outside of the General Assembly, House Bill 99 gained the backing of the National Safety Council and AAA, as well as many law enforcement officials and school organizations.
Ohio has now become the 39th state to institute a texting while driving ban. I am proud that we have joined the majority who recognize the dangers of this technology when in the hands of a driver, and I know that it will prove a deterrent to what has too often become a deadly activity.