COLUMBUS — Ohio’s new ban on texting while driving is just two weeks old, but a national group of highway safety officials already says the law doesn’t go far enough.
While praising the state for banning texting by drivers — it took legislators three years to approve a bill — the Governors Highway Safety Association says Ohio and all other states also should enact stricter laws that prohibit the use of any hand-held electronic device while behind the wheel.
Although 39 states ban texting while driving, just nine prohibit all drivers from using hand-held devices for any purpose.
West Virginia will become the 10th state to ban all hand-held devices on July 1, 2013.
The highway-safety group based in Washington represents safety officials from all states, not governors.
For the record, a cell-phone ban is not on Gov. John Kasich’s priority list right now, a spokesman said.
Ohio’s new law bans typing, sending, or reading cell-phone text messages but not cell-phone conversations. It does ban drivers younger than 18, though, from using any electronic device, including cell phones, MP3 players, GPS systems, on-board computers, and hands-free accessories.
Because it’s classified as a primary violation, police can stop the youngest drivers for violating their portion of the law alone. For adult drivers, it’s a secondary offense; speeding or other violations must have occurred for officers to pull them over.
The national safety group says allowing cell phones for some purposes makes texting bans difficult to enforce.
The group previously pushed states only for the laws Ohio now has, but it began pushing this month for stricter rules.
Violations would be easier to spot if all hand-held devices were banned, its members argue.
“People will say, ‘Oh, I’m dialing,’ and that’s legal,” said Jonathan Adkins, spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association.
“By having the hand-held ban, it helps out law enforcement.”
Ohio’s law took effect on Aug. 31, but state troopers, local police, and deputy sheriffs are issuing warnings for the first six months.