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Reading This While Driving? It May Cost You, Texting Ban Starts Today

"Is 'LOL' or 'buy milk and bread' or 'dinner out?' worth your life?" says Westlake Police captain Guy Turner, who worked with AAA to support the law.

Ohio's new law banning texting while driving takes effect Aug. 31, prohibiting anyone from sending or reading messages from behind the wheel.

The measure takes things a step further for drivers under 18. They can't talk on a cell phone at all, even with Bluetooth or other hands-free methods.

"I am confident that this one small step will have a great impact as we work toward safer roadways," said State Sen. Tom Patton, R-24, who supported the legislation.

No one will get ticketed ... yet. There's a six-month grace period built into the law, and police will issue warnings until next March 1.

But "texting" doesn't just mean thumbing in messages. It applies to reading, too -- even checking your email. 

captain Guy Turner worked with to support the law. He was glad it goes into effect ahead of the Labor Day holiday weekend, when 33 million people are expected to be traveling.

"Is 'LOL' or 'buy milk and bread' or 'dinner out?' worth your life, the life of another driver or pedestrian, or anyone's continued good health?" Turner said. "I think not."

Young drivers especially need this law, Turner added.

"Our newest drivers are the ones who can least afford to be distracted," Turner said. "They need to concentrate on the visual, auditory, and tactile skills required to carefully and succesfully control a ton-plus of vehicle at all speeds. That being said, all drivers must focus on operating their car or truck. How important is sending or reading that text, anyway?"

“Texting while driving is the most dangerous of all distractions behind the wheel,” Brian Newbacher, director of public affairs for AAA East Central, who worked with law enforcement officers like Turner to lead support of the bill, said in a statement Thursday. “The teen driving portion of the bill is very strong and AAA supports it 100 percent. AAA would like to see a primary enforcement ban for all drivers in the future, but this is a great start.” 

According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety, here's what the ban means:

If you're under age 18

It is illegal to use any electronic wireless communications device while driving in Ohio. 

This means:

• No texting
• No e-mailing
• No talking on your cell phone, Bluetooth, Bluetooth speakers, On-Star or any similar device
• No computers, laptops or tablets
• No playing video games
• No using your GPS (unless it's a voice-operated or hands-free device that has been pre-programmed)

The ban stays in place even when you are sitting at a light or stuck in traffic.

It's a Primary Offense:  Law enforcement can stop you for any of the above reasons. 

For first violations, the fine is $150 and the offender's driver's license is suspended for 60 days.

After that, fine is $300 and licenses are suspended for a year.

The only exceptions are for vehicles in a stationary position and outside a lane of travel; and emergency calls to law enforcement, hospital, fire department, etc.

If you're 18 or older

It is illegal to use a handheld electronic wireless communications device to write, send or read a text while driving in Ohio.

It is a secondary offense, meaning adults cannot be pulled over for texting or reading their email while driving. 

The offense is a minor misdemeanor, which carries a fine up to $150.

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