Ohio's new law banning texting while driving takes effect today, prohibiting anyone from sending or reading messages from behind the wheel.
The measure takes things a step further for drivers under 18: They can't talk on a cell phone at all, even with Bluetooth or other hands-free methods.
"I am confident that this one small step will have a great impact as we work toward safer roadways," said State Sen. Tom Patton, R-24, who supported the legislation.
No one will get ticketed just yet. There's a six-month grace period built into the law, and police will issue warnings until March 1, 2013.
But "texting" doesn't just mean thumbing in messages. It applies to reading, too — even checking your email.
"It is important to note that 'texting' includes writing, sending, and reading any text-based communication including instant messages and emails, as well as traditional mobile-to-mobile texts," Patton said in a news release.
According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety, here's what the ban means:
If you're under age 18:
It is illegal to use any electronic wireless communications device while driving in Ohio.
• No texting
• No e-mailing
• No talking on your cell phone, Bluetooth, Bluetooth speakers, On-Star or any similar device
• No computers, laptops or tablets
• No playing video games
• No using your GPS (unless it's a voice-operated or hands-free device that has been pre-programmed)
The ban stays in place even when you are sitting at a light or stuck in traffic.
It's a Primary Offense: Law enforcement can stop you for any of the above reasons.
For first violations, the fine is $150 and the offender's driver's license is suspended for 60 days.
After that, fine is $300 and licenses are suspended for a year.
The only exceptions are for vehicles in a stationary position and outside a lane of travel; and emergency calls to law enforcement, hospital, fire department, etc.
Adult drivers (18 or older):
It is illegal to use a handheld electronic wireless communications device to write, send or read a text while driving in Ohio.
It is a secondary offense, meaning adults cannot be pulled over for texting or reading their email while driving.
The offense is a minor misdemeanor, which carries a fine up to $150.