More than 270 citations have been issued to drivers for texting or using a cellphone behind the wheel in violation of a new Ohio law, according to data from the State Highway Patrol.
The tickets were handed out from March 2013 through the end of last month, covering the first year the statewide texting ban has been in effect.
The citations pale in comparison to the almost 367,600 tickets issued for speeding over the same time period, but supporters say the ticket figures don’t tell the whole picture.
“There’s no way we will ever know the number of lives saved by this,” said state Rep. Rex Damschroder, a Fremont Republican who was one of the bill’s sponsors.
The state Health Department’s most recent youth risk survey found that almost half of Ohio teen drivers had texted or emailed behind the wheel.
The law is stricter for minors than adults. Yet of the 273 tickets issued by the patrol over the past year, 43 were given to drivers younger than 18.
Under the law, younger drivers cannot talk on their phones and are prohibited from texting or using other hand-held devices, such as an iPod. For them, it’s a primary offense — meaning drivers can be pulled over specifically for committing the act.
For those 18 and older, texting while driving is a secondary offense. That means an officer has to stop a driver for another offense first, such as speeding or running a red light.
Damschroder had wanted texting to be a primary offense for all drivers, which he said would have been easier to enforce.
“Can an officer look in the window and tell if someone is 17 or 19?” Damschroder said. “I think the answer is probably not — which makes it very difficult for the officer to pull anybody over specifically for texting while driving”