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Tina Yanssens became an advocate for a statewide texting while driving ban after her father’s death on June 17, 2010. He had been struck and killed by a texting driver.

Now, Ohio drivers have six months to kick bad habits as the state joins 38 others, along with the District of Columbia, in banning texting while driving. Ohio police will begin fining drivers who are caught sending, reading or composing a text in the driver’s seat.

Gov. John Kasich signed Ohio House Bill 99, which outlines the texting ban, into law on June 1, and it went into effect on Aug. 31. The law bans texting while driving for adults and any use of an electronic handheld device for drivers under 18.

For Yanssens, this law came at just the right time, as her resolve for advocating an anti-texting while driving law was tested.

“I’m glad that we were able to get it done. Because, I’ll tell you what, I’m not a very patient person, and politics is not very fast,” Yanssens said.

After her father’s death, Yanssens began to pay attention to other drivers on her drive home from work — and she was shocked by the number of eyes focused on their laps instead of the road.

“We need to take a look at the riskiest behaviors we do and legislate those behaviors,” Yanssens said.

Police can administer a fine of up to $150 after the six-month warning period expires.

The offense has been given misdemeanor status, but it is a secondary offense. To issue a citation, drivers must commit another offense, and police can then pull them over.

Yassens said this law is only a starting point. She continues to fight to make texting behind the wheel a primary offense, as it is in Canfield.

Even with the stricter law in Canfield, which was approved in September 2010, not many citations are written.

Paul Laskey, a Canfield police officer, said only a few warnings and maybe one citation have been issued since the law’s inception.

Laskey said no texting-related crashes have been reported because police blame crashes on distracted driving or other issues. But Laskey said he feels the law is worthwhile nonetheless.

“I think, for the most part, most officers would agree that’s a good law. Because [texting] is a distraction,” Laskey said. Freshman nursing major Rachel George doesn’t have as positive of an outlook on the law.

“I personally feel like old people cause more accidents than texting while driving,” George said. “That’s what makes me mad.”

George said she agrees that people should not text while driving, but feels the law focuses too much on punishing young drivers, when all ages commit the offense.

She admitted to texting and driving, adding that her parents, siblings and even grandmother have done it as well.

“They kind of blame our generation too much, and it’s annoying,” George said. 

1 comments Marc Fri Sep 21 2012 10:36 It’s adorable that people think texting is the singular problem or that a ban will somehow make the roads safer, but the problem is DISTRACTED driving, not texting while driving. Taking your eyes off the road for any reason is the worst thing you can do to cause accidents. Incidentally, texting bans mean that people will have their phones in their laps instead of where they can see both their phone and the windshield, so as not to get ticketed. Did anyone really think through this or did they just get caught up in the moral circlejerk?

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