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Ohio Senate needs to get behind the text-driving wheel

April 15, 2012
Salem News

A recent opinion piece emphasized our belief in a need for a texting while driving ban in Ohio.

Thirty-six states have statutes prohibiting use by motorists of cellular phones or other devices to send messages. Yes, texting while driving is distracted driving. It is dangerous and for that reason alone there should be a law in place in Ohio. We cited a University of Texas study that revealed 16,141 Americans died in accident causes by texting during the past six years.

Here are some more startling numbers released this past week by the Ohio State Highway Patrol: from 2009-2011 there were 31,231 crashes caused by distracted driving in Ohio. Seventy-four of the crashes ended in a death and 7,825 included injuries.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol defines distracted driving as any non-driving activity a person engages in that has potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing. Distractions can be visual - taking eyes off of the road; manual - taking hands off the wheel; or cognitive - taking the mind off driving. Texting while driving is an example that results in all three types of distraction. Get the point?

"Every single time someone takes their eyes or their focus off the road - even for just a few seconds - they put their lives and the lives of others in danger," said Colonel John Born, Patrol superintendent. "Distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible and in a split second, its consequences can be devastating."

According to the National Highway Safety Administration 5,474 people died nationally in 2009 in distraction-related crashes - of these, 18 percent involved cell phone use.

Can you prevent everyone from texting while driving? Of course not. Just as you can't prevent every drunk from staying off the road. But clearly mandated enforcement is needed. The numbers starkly bear that out. Something needs to be done by our lawmakers. They need to get behind the wheel and take charge.

Last summer the state House of Representatives approved text banning action by a lopsided 88-10 vote. But a similar measure is stalled in the state Senate. Go figure. A flimsy excuse offered is that texting while driving already falls under the reckless driving statutes. But apparently that is not enough. The Ohio Senate needs to act and act now. Keeping drunks of the road is obviously a huge way of saving lives and preventing injuries. Keeping drivers from texting would be another clear way. The numbers bear that out. So do the cemeteries and emergency rooms.



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