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Extend Ban To Adults, Too

September 5, 2012
By The Intelligencer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Some Ohio teenagers may have begun "texting" their friends on the unfairness of a new state law. That's fine - they're right, in a way - as long as it's not done while those sending or reading the messages are behind the wheel.

Ohio's new ban on drivers using cellular phones and other devices to send or read text messages went into effect Saturday. For six months, law enforcement officers will issue only warning tickets, to give motorists time to become accustomed to the new law.

It treats adults 18 years of age and older much differently than juveniles.

Under the new law, motorists under 18 cannot use hand-held devices for texting or even talking. Doing so will be a primary offense, meaning offenders can be pulled over and ticketed solely on the strength of an officer witnessing a violation.

But for adults, texting is a secondary offense. That means offenders have to be stopped for some other violation before they can be charged with illegal texting. And adult drivers still are free to use cell phones for conversations.

Using hands-free cell phone devices remains legal for motorists of all ages.

Compromises often have to be made to enact sensitive legislation such as that involving cell phones. No doubt some Ohio legislators worried that a ban on talking on cell phones for those of all ages would be dangerous at election time.

Still, it's easy to understand why many teenagers will view the new law as unfair to them. If it's dangerous for a teen to talk on the phone while driving, why isn't it viewed as hazardous for an older motorist whose reflexes may leave much to be desired?

Cell phone use without a hands-free device is a problem for all drivers, of course. At some point state legislators should recognize that and amend the law to cover drivers of all ages. Perhaps that can occur after the November election.

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