Texting while driving is dangerous. In fact, studies indicate that texting while driving is actually more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A study by the Transport Research Laboratory found that texting slows reaction time by 35% while being at the legal limit for alcohol slows reaction time by 12%. A study by Car And Driver showed that the time it took drivers to stop while texting was considerably higher than when the same drivers were under the influence of alcohol.
On May 5, 2010, it became illegal to drive while texting in Columbus, Ohio. The new law, Columbus City Code section 2131.44, prohibits operating a motor vehicle while using a communication device to: (1) compose, send or receive a text message (including email); and (2) send, receive, create, play or interact with internet based content.
It will likely be difficult for police to enforce the anti-texting law. If an officer observes a driver allegedly texting, the officer can make a traffic stop. The officer can ask the driver if he was texting and ask to look at the driver’s phone. If the driver declines, the officer would have to get a warrant to look at the phone. Sounds unlikely.
If a driver is somehow convicted of driving while texting, the offense is categorized as a minor misdemeanor, so the possible punishment includes a $150 fine and possible community service. An offender cannot go to jail or lose her driver’s license. For driving over the legal alcohol limit, an activity that affects reaction time less than texting, first offense O.V.I. (D.U.I.) penalties include mandatory jail time of three days to six months, a mandatory license suspension of six months to three years, a possible requirement of yellow license plates, a possible requirement of an ignition interlock device, and a mandatory fine of $375 to $1,075.
The anti-texting law does not prohibit talking on the phone. It also does not prohibit eating your breakfast while you put on your makeup and look for that quarter you dropped on the floor.