Marc Kovac - Texting ban no cure for knuckleheads on the road

Published:

COLUMBUS -- I have no great love for Ohio drivers.

Apologies to the competent operators among you, but here in the state's capital city, people behind the wheel don't have a clue.

I seldom get through my daily commute without some knucklehead making some knuckleheaded maneuver, oblivious to the effect on the other people on the roads.

Stuff like this didn't fly in Chicago, where I grew up and took drivers ed with a football coach who liked to swear and spit, sometimes forgetting to open the window when doing the latter.

The first time out in the car, I hit the brakes when he instructed me to change lanes.

The tongue lashing I received in the middle of the road was enough to stop me from repeating that mistake ever again.

Driving prowess aside, many of the problems in the Columbus area stem from people using their cell phones while driving.

I can't remember the last weekday that I didn't see someone weaving into the wrong lane while staring down at an electronic device.

Or slowing well under the posted speed limit while laughing uproariously with a cell phone pressed up against their ear.

Or turning their turn signal on at the last moment and expecting everyone behind them to stop because they were too busy chatting to notice the approaching exit ramp.

And, unfortunately, I don't think the new driving-while-texting ban, which took effect last week, is going to have much of an immediate impact changing those behaviors.

Yes, it gives law enforcement the power to pull teens off the road for talking on cell phones, texting, playing video games or any other activity involving a wireless communications device while behind the wheel of an automobile.

Minors caught violating the law will face a $150 fine and a 60-day license suspension for a first offense and $300 fine and one-year license suspension for subsequent offenses.

That's a plus. But most of the people doing dumb things on the road that I encounter in the Columbus area are adults.

For them, texting while driving is a secondary offense, meaning officers can't pull them over unless they break some other traffic law.

And adults can still talk on cell phones, fiddle with GPS devices and do other things that will worsen their already terrible driving skills.

Proponents of texting while driving bans hope that making the activity illegal will be enough to prompt future generations to refrain.

They use the same reasoning with seat belts. New generations don't think twice about clicking them in place when entering a motor vehicle.

Others say Ohio's new texting ban is a first step toward more stringent laws against activities that distract drivers and lead to accidents. Lawmakers can always revisit the issue and implement tougher restrictions.

All of that may end up being true. In the meantime, the rest of us will have to sit in traffic while goofy drivers take time to send electronically enhanced pictures of their extra large soy lattes while swaying into other people's lanes.

(Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.)

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.