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Toledo's ban on texting while driving begins Jan. 1

Toledo's ban against text-messaging while driving begins Friday, and conviction for a first violation will be a minor misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $150.

Toledo became the second major city in Ohio to ban text-messaging while driving, under a law City Council passed in November. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner signed the measure, which he introduced to council four months ago.

The ban that Toledo City Council approved by a 10-2 vote is very similar to a law in Cleveland, which took effect in July. The law forbids typing, sending, reading, or answering messages, or "dialing" numbers on text-messaging devices for those purposes while operating a vehicle.

Toledo's new law does not forbid voice communications via cellular telephone.

Councilmen Lindsay Webb and Michael Ashford cast the dissenting votes.

They said the issue should be handled at the state level rather than by local municipalities.

A second conviction would be a third-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 maximum fine, while a third violation would be a first-degree misdemeanor, with a top penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Motorists may park to communicate by text message, and an exemption is provided for text-messagers who are communicating with public-safety forces.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have banned text-messaging behind the wheel, and similar legislation has been proposed in Ohio.

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