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CINCINNATI - Drivers in Ohio are banned from reading, writing and sending text messages from behind the wheel under a bill Gov. John Kasich signed into law Friday.
Ohio is the 39th state to prohibit texting while driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. The law also includes a stricter crackdown on teen drivers' use of electronic devices, making the measure among the broadest in the country focused on distracted teen drivers.
Here are some questions and answers about the legislation:
Q: When will the law take effect?
A: The law takes effect 90 days after Kasich signed it, which is Aug. 30. State troopers and officers can't issue tickets or citations for the first six months after the effective date. However, they can give drivers a warning and provide information about the ban and using electronics.
Q: How will the ban work?
A: The law will make texting with handheld devices a secondary offense for adults. That means drivers can be ticketed for typing emails or instant messages only if they were first pulled over for another offense, such as running a red light or not stopping at a stop sign.
Q: How is it tougher on teen drivers?
A: The measure bans drivers under age 18 from using cellphones, iPads, laptops or other electronic devices. They can't make calls or browse the Web while driving. Texting or using an electronic device is a primary offense for minors, so they can more easily get ticketed if an officer catches them violating the ban.
Q: Are there any exemptions?
A: Yes, several. The measure does allow all drivers to text and use their cellphones in cases of an emergency and when the vehicle is stopped and off the road. Adult drivers cannot be cited for typing in a number or a name to make a call, among other exemptions.
Q: Can drivers still use hands-free devices, such as those that allow voice-operated texts?
A: Yes, but only adult drivers.
Q: What about hands-free GPS navigation devices?
A: Yes. And teens can use them, too, but they can't manipulate them while driving.
Q: What are the penalties for breaking the law?
A: Ohio's law makes texting a misdemeanor for drivers, with possible fines of $150. Minors can be fined $150 for the first offense and have their license suspended for 60 days. Repeat teen offenders can be fined $300 and have their license taken away for a year. The measure won't trump city ordinances on texting or cellphone use that might be tougher.
Q: What does law enforcement think about the ban?
A: The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police supports the legislation. However, the group's president has said the organization would have preferred that texting be a primary offense for all drivers -- not just teens -- because it would have been easier to enforce. Still, Ohio FOP president Jay McDonald says the law will give officers an avenue to investigate whether texting has played a role in a crash or traffic accident.
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