Three or four weeks ago we quoted a Columbus Dispatch article that commented that "the issue du jour for Ohio legislators appears to be making sure drivers keep their eyes on the road, not on a cell phone." At that time, Ohio had five bills related to cell phone texting & driving in its House, and a sixth in its Senate. A seventh was introduced a week after.
Text messaging – or cell phone use in general— indeed seems an up & coming traffic topic. The National Conference of State Legislatures, this time last year, reported that 29 states and the District of Columbia had laws limiting hand-held cell phone use while driving. Four states -- Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Washington – were already banning texting. According to the Governors’ Highway Safety Association this month ,18 states and the District of Columbia now have those kind of laws – and, "with the exception of the state of Washington, these laws are all primary enforcement— meaning an officer may ticket a driver for using a handheld cell phone while driving without any other traffic offense taking place."
Ohio is currently not among those numbers, and Kentucky and Indiana restrictions apply only to minors and new drivers at this point. But that's not "all she wrote," so to speak…All three states have pending legislation, too.
Ohio HB 130 is exclusively related to cell phone use by minors, while HB 261, HB 262, SB 160, and SB 164 deal with texting and cell phone use more generally but specifying that violations are "secondary offenses." HB 266, the most stringent of the Ohio bills, carries a penalty of $25 for the first offense, $50 for a second or third, and $100 for a fourth and subsequent offenses. HB 270 is the remaining bill.
Last week the Associate Press reported that the Commonwealth of Kentucky had two new bills pending in its legislature.
HB 267, introduced in February, would "prohibit any person under 18 with a instruction permit from using a personal telecommunication device while operating a motor vehicle, motorcycle, or moped except to summon medical or other emergency help." HB 41, introduced earlier, in January, is more extensive, "Creating a new section of KRS 189 to define terms; prohibit the use of a personal communication device without the use of a hands-free device by the operator of a motor vehicle, (but) providing limited exceptions; amending KRS 189.990 to provide for period ending January 1, 2010 during which courtesy warnings will be issued for a violation of Section 1 and set a fine of between $20 and $100 for a violation of Section 1 on or after January 1, 2010."
One interesting point about Kentucky is that, according to the GHSA, it is one of eight states, including Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah , which also have preemption laws prohibiting local jurisdictions from enacting restrictions.
Indiana's ban on teenage drivers' use of cell phones and texting devices just went into effect July 1, 2009, but that state, too, has another four bills pending in its legislature. (HB 1242, HB 1699, SB 80, and SB196)