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Ohio is among 41 states that have banned texting while driving, but a new survey shows the state should reconsider its watered-down secondary enforcement provision for adults.
The Ohio distracted-driving law now has two levels of enforcement. Secondary enforcement applies to adults who text message while driving, meaning that cops need another reason to stop and cite violators, such as speeding. But for drivers under 18, texting and use of other portable electronic devices is a primary offense.
That probably sounds discriminatory to many young people. Such laws are based partly on the widely held premise that young drivers are more likely to engage in distracted driving.
But the old heads are catching up. According to State Farm Insurance’s annual distracted-driving survey, drivers over 30 now rival younger drivers when it comes to texting and accessing the Internet while navigating traffic.
A dramatic increase in smart phone ownership by older drivers has led to an explosion in reckless behavior in a group that was once assumed to know better, according to the insurance giant’s survey of nearly 1,000 drivers.
Drivers between 30 and 39 who own smart phones jumped from 60 to 86 percent in the past two years. At the same time, smart-phone ownership grew from 47 percent to 82 percent among 40-to-49-year-olds and from 44 percent to 66 percent for 50-to-64-year-olds.
The portion of all drivers who admit that they keep one eye on the Internet and one on the road doubled from 13 percent in 2009 to 24 percent this year, but the breakdown by age still shows younger drivers way ahead of their older cohorts in this troublesome habit.
Nearly half of the drivers under 29 admitted using smart phones to access the Internet while driving, up from 29 percent in 2009. Nearly 70 percent of the same age group text while driving.
That’s disturbing, given that it takes only a second of distracted driving to injure or kill someone.
Moreover, laws prohibiting texting and accessing the Internet while operating a car aren’t taken seriously, according to the survey’s respondents.
Unfortunately, appealing to drivers’ sense of responsibility isn’t enough in a society where Internet access is valued more than road safety. Better enforcement would be a start — and that means making texting a primary offense for drivers of all ages.