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The Suburbanite
  • Texting ban? Good luck with that

  • The issue: New state law in effect today

    Our view: Managing this tenacious distraction is probably the ultimate answer

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  • The issue: New state law in effect today
    Our view: Managing this tenacious distraction is probably the ultimate answer
    Ohio’s new ban on texting while driving takes effect today. Will it make the state’s roads safer? Maybe. For a while. Or maybe not.
    Over the course of years, public education campaigns may well put a dent in this latest dangerous practice behind the wheel, as they have with drinking and driving. But the law itself? We’d say the odds are against it.
    “Texting” is the catch-all word for the new law, but it applies to every kind of mobile communications device unless it’s hands-free. Laptop, tablet, phone — you name it and the ban covers it.
    But the scope of the law doesn’t necessarily add anything to its potential effectiveness. There are just so many factors mitigating against its success.
    Drivers may mind their p’s and q’s for a while if they assume law enforcement is watching for texters and other violators. But consider:
    • For Ohio drivers 18 and older, it’s a secondary offense, so unless an officer sees them doing something else that’s illegal, they won’t be stopped.
    • Unlike seeing a car weave from lane to lane, officers have to be able to see what drivers are doing inside their vehicle to charge them under the new law. “That’s a difficult task,” a Columbus police officer pointed out to The Dispatch, which reported that the department has issued a grand total of 88 tickets under the city’s own 2-year-old texting ban.
    • Some studies show that texting while driving is as dangerous as DUI. But that’s where legitimate comparisons stop. People usually don’t set out to drive drunk; they drink, they drive, they mess up. In contrast, inveterate texters, emailers and cellphone yakkers like to drive distracted. They do it deliberately. It’s socially acceptable, it’s fun, and apparently they think multitasking behind the wheel is an efficient use of their time. That makes it a hard habit to break.
    •This includes parents who would never dream of setting the example of driving drunk.
    • As for drivers under 18, The Rep talked to teens and heard from one that “I have (texted) before, but I don’t do it a lot. I look to see if it’s a message that I can ignore.” And if not?
    If the new law is applied after the fact in the case of an accident, in addition to other charges, then the state can throw the book a little harder at reckless drivers whose texting has had consequences. That’s a benefit.
    But managing this tenacious distraction, not banning it, probably will be the ultimate answer. We’ll hope for a big leap in highway safety once all vehicles are sold with hands-free devices as standard equipment.