Wednesday, Aug 23, 2017
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Police & Fire

Drivers who are texting to face primary-offense citation

Vast majority of drivers using phones while driving typically committing other offenses

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    Toledo police will now cite texting drivers for 'operation in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property,' Chief George Kral said.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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  • texting24-Mark-Sobczak

    Mark Sobczak, Toledo's Chief of Staff, talks about the dangers of texting while driving during a news conference at the Safety Building.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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Toledo's police chief announced today that officers can pull over and ticket motorists who are believed to be texting while driving.

Chief George Kral outlined a more aggressive approach to limit distracted driving during a news conference at the downtown Safety Building. It includes pulling over motorists who are sending messages on their phones.

The current driving-while-texting statute is difficult to prove, carries numerous exceptions, and is a secondary offense, Chief Kral said. Toledo police will now ticket texting drivers for a separate violation, “operation in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property,” he said.

As a secondary offense, the texting statute meant drivers could only be cited for the texting law if pulled over for another violation, such as speeding. Chief Kral said the disregard of the safety of persons statute is considered a primary-offense provision of state law, and thus motorists can be pulled over if officers believe drivers are texting and driving. 

Chief Kral said those not texting and driving will not receive a ticket under the statute. In the vast majority of cases, texting motorists are typically committing other primary traffic offenses, such as weaving through lanes, Chief Kral added.

A vehicle traveling at 40 miles per hour will go nearly 100 yards in just five seconds, Chief Kral said.

“Now, let someone look me in the eye and tell me that keeping your head down, driving a hundred yards without looking out of the windshield, is not driving with willful disregard for the safety of others,” Chief Kral said.

From 2012 through 2015, more than 13,000 people died nationwide due to distracted driving. Statistics show drivers are 23 times more likely to crash if they are texting, Chief Kral said.

Officials from several area law enforcement agencies, including Sylvania Township police and the Lucas County Sheriff's Office, said they will instruct officers about the program and potential citations to file.

Contact Ryan Dunn at: rdunn@theblade.com, 419-724-6095, or on Twitter @rdunnblade.

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