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Texting bans, cellphone curbs for drivers are catching on

Cox Newspapers / August 11, 2009

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - With the use of cellphones and text messaging exploding across the country, states are scrambling to combat these potentially dangerous distractions to drivers trying to navigate crowded highways and streets.

So far, 17 states and the District of Columbia have banned text messaging while driving, and six of those states along with Washington, D.C., also have outlawed using hand-held cellphones while behind the wheel, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

When the Ohio Legislature returns in September, lawmakers are expected to consider at least three proposals that would add their state to the list.

One bill would ban text-messaging while driving but make it a secondary offense, meaning a motorist couldn’t be pulled over for texting but could be cited if stopped for a primary offense such as speeding.

However, Pam Fischer, director of Ohio’s division of highway traffic safety, said secondary enforcement will not do the job. She pointed out that the number of citations issued in New Jersey nearly tripled in about a year compared with the previous 44 months after primary enforcement began March 1, 2008.

A two-week crackdown in 18 New Jersey towns earlier this year indicated that tough enforcement cuts in half cellphone use and texting.