COLUMBUS -- Ohio teens could not use their cell phones, iPads, or other electronic devices while driving unless there's an emergency under a bill the state Senate is expected to vote on today.
A Senate transportation committee on Wednesday added the restrictions on teens in a series of changes they made to the measure that also included loosening a proposed statewide texting ban on adult drivers. The legislation cleared the panel on a 6-3 vote, with two Democrats and one Republican voting against it.
State Sen. Capri Cafaro, (D., Hubbard), said she opposed the bill because she was concerned that it would open the door to future infringements on personal freedom.
"What's next?" she said. "We can't put on our lipstick? We can't eat french fries? We can't change the radio? We can't talk to the person next to us?"
Texting while driving is already prohibited in 37 states, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Six more states prohibit text messaging by new drivers. Other states also ban novice drivers from using cell phones.
State Rep. Rex Damschroder (R., Fremont) co-sponsored Ohio's bill with Democratic Rep. Nancy Garland of New Albany, Ohio.
Mr. Damschroder said it will save lives of 16 and 17-year-olds who "all know how to text and all think they know how to drive."
"No question it will make it a better bill if it is a complete ban up to age 18 for electronic devices," he said.
Toledo and Wauseon are among several communities in the state that have adopted municipal driver text-messaging bans.
Ohio's bill would make text ing behind the wheel a minor misdemeanor, with possible fines of $150. The measure wouldn't trump city ordinances on texting or cell phone use that might be tougher.
Revisions agreed to by the Senate committee on Wednesday would make texting with handheld devices a secondary offense for adults. That means drivers could be ticketed for typing emails or instant messages only if they were pulled over for another offense, such as running a red light.