Like most teenagers, Aaron Graham can text with the best of them, sometimes sending or receiving as many as 1,000 messages per month on his cellular phone.
Graham, 17, of Marietta, is also a licensed driver and hopes to get his own car this fall. He admits he sometimes talks on his phone while driving, but said he doesn't text while behind the wheel.
"I know a lot of people who do," he said. "It makes me a little nervous when they do."
BRAD BAUER The Marietta Times
Ohio lawmakers are currently considering separate bills that would make it illegal to text message or talk on a phone while operating a motor vehicle. Six states and the District of Columbia prohibit cell phone use while driving. Seventeen states ban texting while driving.
Concerned about increasingly distracted motorists, some U.S. senators are pushing for a federal ban on text messaging while driving. At the same time, Ohio lawmakers are considering at least two bills that would ban texting or any cell phone use by motorists.
According to an Associated Press report, an estimated 1 trillion text messages were sent in the U.S. in 2008, outpacing the number of cell phone calls. And recent studies point out that people trying to type while driving is likely leading to more and more crashes.
Ohio Rep. Jennifer Garrison, D-Marietta, said she hasn't taken a stance on whether cell phones should be completely banned while driving. However, she said texting probably should be banned.
Laws on cell phone use behind the wheel:
Handheld cell phone bans for all drivers: Six states (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington), the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from talking on handheld cell phones while driving.
With the exception of Washington state, these laws are all primary enforcement - an officer may ticket a driver for using a handheld cell phone while driving without any other traffic offense taking place.
Novice drivers: 21 states and the District of Columbia ban all cell phone use by novice drivers.
School bus drivers: In 16 states and the District of Columbia, school bus drivers are prohibited from all cell phone use when passengers are present.
Text messaging: 17 states and the District of Columbia now ban text messaging for all drivers.
Novice drivers: Nine states prohibit text messaging by novice drivers.
School bus drivers: Texas restricts school bus drivers from texting while driving.
No statewide ban exists in Ohio that prohibits texting or other cell phone use while driving. However, local governments can adopt ordinances that ban cell phone use in their jurisdiction. No communities in the area have adopted such a ban.
Two bills were introduced Aug. 4 in the Ohio House of Representatives that would ban cell phone use while driving - one related to texting, the other related to talking on a phone.
Source: Governors Highway Safety Association and Associated Press.
"Texting is certainly different than talking on the phone," she said. "I think texting while driving is dangerous, and we will explore how to deal with that issue though the hearing process."
Six states and the District of Columbia prohibit cell phone use while driving. Seventeen states currently ban texting while driving.
In Ohio, local municipalities can adopt laws that ban cell phone use in their jurisdictions. No local communities have enacted such a ban, although it was attempted in Belpre several years ago.
On the state level, there have already been several failed attempts to ban all cell phone use while driving. The Aug. 4 introduction of House Bill 261 is the first attempt to ban texting while driving.
The proposed texting ban would be a secondary offense, meaning a person would have to commit another violation before they could be pulled over for texting. The fine would be $250 and would include an automatic six-month driver's license suspension if the motorist was involved in a crash.
Ohio Sen. Jimmy Stewart, R-Athens, said he is reluctant to support either of the current proposals on cell phone use.
"I've seen people fixing their hair, putting on makeup, singing, smoking and so on," he said. "So where do you want to start and where do you want to end on this?"
Garrison said the proposals in Ohio are still going through committee and have yet to be set for a vote.
Lt. Mary Pfeifer, commander of the Marietta post of the Ohio Highway Patrol, said motorists have become increasingly distracted over the past decade. She said CD players, iPods, cell phones, GPS units and even DVD players are almost standard in most family vehicles.
"Certainly anytime that people have their attention divided, there's a higher probability they are not focused on their driving," Pfeifer said. "We have had incidents where people admit they were using a cell phone at the time of a crash. But we've also had crashes where people were just reaching for the radio or a cup of coffee."
A recent NHTSA and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study found that texting while driving increased the risk of collision for heavy trucks by 23.6 times. The researchers said the risk generally applied to all drivers.
The same study also concluded that dialing a cell phone while driving smaller vehicles nearly tripled the risk of a crash. Even talking or listening to a cell phone showed some increased risk, about 1.3 times.
A report by Car and Driver magazine found that texting and driving is more dangerous than drunken driving, according to The Associated Press.