Marietta College freshman Tyler Anderson admits he used to text while behind the wheel.
But that changed a couple years ago, after a friend died in an automobile accident. Texting wasn't confirmed as the cause, but it was suspected, said Anderson, 19, from Caldwell.
"It was believed to be one of the reasons," he said.
It didn't take a state law to get Anderson to put the phone down while driving, but automobile club AAA believes one is necessary and is calling on the Ohio General Assembly to pass a measure similar to what's been adopted in 34 states. When Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signs the bill approved this month by the legislature, West Virginia will become the 35th, and the last state bordering Ohio to enact a ban.
"Ninety-five percent of AAA's 2.3 million members in Ohio are in favor of a ban on texting while driving," said Brian Newbacher, director of public affairs for AAA East Central. "Obviously, if every neighboring state has now passed a ban, there's no reason why Ohio can't follow suit."
In June 2011, the state's House of Representatives voted 88-10 to pass House Bill 99, which would prohibit sending a text message or reading such a message while operating a motor vehicle. Doing so would be considered a minor misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $150 fine.
Texting while driving bans in states surrounding Ohio
Kentucky - April 2010.
Michigan - April 2010.
Indiana - May 2011.
Pennsylvania - November 2011.
West Virginia - March 2012 (passed legislature and sent to governor).
There were two hearings on the bill in the Senate last year, but no further action has been taken.
Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville and a member of the Senate Highways and Transportation Committee, voted for the measure while he was in the House and said he would do so again. The hearings occurred prior to his Senate appointment in December, and he said he doesn't know if the bill will be taken up again.
"The public support certainly is significant and overwhelming," he said.
Gentile said some senators might be reluctant to support the legislation because of questions of too much government involvement in private matters. While he understands that, he said public safety takes priority in this case.
McConnelsville resident Wendy Rummer, 39, would like to see the ban enacted.
"I have a 17-year-old son, so yes, I'm all for banning texting while driving," she said. "He has enough distractions without his cell phone being on."
Rummer said she's somewhat surprised the law hasn't been passed already.
"However, we'd like to think people would use common sense instead of it having to be mandated," she said.
Marietta resident Scott Binegar, 41, said the ban should be established, even though he already doesn't text while driving.
"I think it's that sense of responsibility," he said. "It's just like drinking and driving. You have to think about what you can do to somebody else, to yourself."
Anderson expressed doubt that a ban would stop the practice.
"People think they can get away with it," he said. "They just think it won't happen to them."
Sgt. Garic Warner, with the Ohio Highway Patrol's Marietta post, said he thinks the ban should and will pass eventually. A person driving behind a motorist who is texting might think they were following an intoxicated driver, he said.
"It looks like a drunk driver, the way it's lane to lane and speeds up and down," he said.
Warner said he hasn't personally worked any crashes that were proven to be tied to texting while driving, but he believes they are more common than statistics show.
"It goes under-reported though, unfortunately," he said. "By the time we get to crashes, nobody wants to admit they were texting."
But if someone is pulled over for erratic driving, usually they will admit what caused it, Warner said.
While a person can already be cited for speeding, going left of center or other results of texting while driving, Warner said the act of passing a law specifically banning texting would be beneficial.
"It sends a message pretty clear that you can't be doing this while driving," he said.