Help save lives; don’t text and drive

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Many people have witnessed incidents of bad driving only to discover a cell phone glued to the driver’s ear. What is even scarier is the act of drivers periodically glancing at the road while using their thumbs to type messages onto a keypad the size of a Fig Newton.

Text messaging while driving is dangerous, but it is not uncommon: 37 percent of 18-to-27-year-olds reported texting while driving, according to a survey by Nationwide Mutual Insurance.

While there are no statistics quantifying the number of road accidents caused by text messaging, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that distracted drivers account for 80 percent of crashes. The most common driver distraction is a cell phone, according to a 2006 study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

Currently in Ohio, except where banned by individual cities, the use of cell phones while driving is legal. This could change as two state representatives, Rep. Michael DeBose and Rep. Diana Fessler said they will to introduce a bill by the end of the year that would make texting while driving illegal.

“People are getting seriously injured in accidents because of texting while driving,” said Michael Dittoe, Fessler’s legislative aid. “We want people to keep their hands on the wheel and not on their cell phone or Blackberry.”

“We’ve seen stories in the state of Washington and the state of California where there have been serious accidents involving texting while driving.”

“Driving is a privilege, it’s not a right,” DeBose said. “And we have a responsibility to regulate all privileges. I think banning texting is important because it saves lives.”

The bill is still in the drafting phases and considerations are being made as to how the law would be enforced.