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Spangenberg Shibely & Liber, LLP | Jun 18, 2012

NTSB Recommends Cellphone Ban: Will Ohio Heed the Advice?

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Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for every state in the nation and Washington, D.C. to ban all non-emergency cellphone use while driving a motor vehicle. This recommendation follows various studies that have concluded cellphone use while driving can be extremely distracting - often leading to severe or even deadly accidents.

One tragic trucking accident illustrating the NTSB's concerns was an accident in which a truck driver, while using his cellphone, crossed the median and hit a van, killing 11 people in the process. It remains to be seen whether Ohio, which doesn't even have a statewide law regarding texting while driving, will follow the NTSB's lead and prohibit all cellphone use while driving.

Unfortunately, many drivers feel like they can easily handle using their cellphone while driving; however, any distraction while driving, whether talking or texting, can be fatal. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving auto accidents killed 3,092 people in 2010.

With numbers like these, many feel it is only a matter of time until cellphone use while driving is more heavily regulated throughout the United States - especially in states like Ohio, which currently has no statewide regulation.

Ohio Cellphone Use While Driving Laws

Despite the ever-increasing research indicating cellphone use while driving can lead to distracted driving accidents, Ohio is one of the increasingly smaller number of states that still don't have any statewide laws regarding limits on cellphone use or text messaging while driving. However, that may soon change.

There are currently two bills working their way through Ohio's Legislature. The first, House Bill 99, would prohibit drivers of motor vehicles, trolleys, and streetcars from texting from any phone or wireless communications device. This bill has passed the House by a vote of 88-10, but is currently referred to the Ohio Senate Highways and Transportation Committee.

The second bill, Senate Bill 35, would also prohibit drivers of motor vehicles, trolleys and streetcars from texting from any phone, but it would also ban talking on cellphones while driving as well. One exception this particular bill carves out though is if the phone can be used hands-free while driving - in which case the driver is permitted to use the phone or other wireless communications device. This bill however has not gone anywhere since it was sent to the Ohio Senate Highways and Transportation Committee early last year.

Ohio Cities Often Regulate Cellphone Use While Driving

Even though the state government in Ohio has yet to pass any statewide cellphone legislation, individual cities within Ohio have taken the initiative to pass some laws of their own. Cities such as Columbus, Cincinnati, and Belpre have all outlawed texting while driving.

In 2009, Cleveland joined the list of Ohio cities that limits cellphone use while driving. Specifically, the Cleveland code section regarding cellphone use while driving states, "No person shall use a wireless handset to compose, send or read text messages while driving a motor vehicle in the City of Cleveland." A driver in Cleveland who violates the law can be fined $150 for the first offense and $250 after the second offense.

Similar to the proposed statewide bans, there are exceptions in which it is permitted for drivers in Cleveland to utilize text messaging, for example, if the driver is attempting to contact the police, an ambulance or fire department to report an emergency. Also, if the driver pulls over or otherwise removes themselves from traffic and stops - for example, if they park the car or if the car breaks down - the driver is permitted to use text messaging.

Various studies have concluded that cellphone use, especially texting, while driving can be incredibly distracting - with some researchers finding driver reaction times while texting are comparable to that of legally drunk drivers. Not only should drivers not use cellphones while driving, but they need to be on the constant lookout for distracted drivers who make the dangerous choice to text while driving on Ohio roads. If you or a loved one has been injured by a driver distracted on their phone, contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Cleveland today to be advised of your rights and options.