POLITICS
03/01/2013 06:10 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2013

Ohio Texting While Driving Ban Goes Into Effect (VIDEO)

On Friday, Ohio joined the long list of states that have made texting while driving illegal.

Text messaging while driving is now banned in 39 states and the District of Columbia, according to data on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's website.

NBC affiliate WFMJ reports that Ohio's statewide ban came into effect at midnight on Mar. 1. Under the new ban, no one is permitted to text while driving in Ohio. For adults over the age of 18, the act will now be considered a minor misdemeanor and secondary offense.

However, while adults can still talk on the phone when behind the wheel -- and will not be stopped by law enforcement if texting while driving is their only offense -- stricter rules have been put into place for drivers under the age of 18.

According to Troy Daily News, drivers younger than 18 will not be able to use any portable electronic devices while driving. (That means no texting, calling, e-mailing or using a GPS device.) These are now considered primary offenses for individuals under the age of 18, which means that teen drivers can be stopped by law enforcement officers even if the use of an electronic device is their only offense.

For the first violation, drivers under 18 will face a $150 fine and license suspension for 60 days; for subsequent violations, under-18s will be slapped with a $300 fine and a year-long license suspension. Adults, on the other hand, could be fined up to $150. (For more on this statewide ban, click here to read the entire law.)

According to Distraction.gov, the government's website about distracted driving, in 2011 more than 3,300 people were killed and more than 387,000 were injured in motor vehicle accidents involving a distracted driver. On the website, texting and using a cell phone are prominently listed as examples of distractions.

Moreover, referencing a report by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, the website notes that texting "creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted."

Currently, there are only five states -- Arizona, Florida, Montana, South Carolina and South Dakota -- that have neither full nor partial texting-while-driving bans. (Hawaii does not have a statewide ban but all counties in the state "have enacted ordinances that address distracted driving," according to the IIHS.)

But, just this week, NBC Miami reported that Florida may soon have a texting ban of its own. Several distracted driving bills -- including one seeking a primary texting and driving ban -- are reportedly ready to be discussed in March when Florida's legislative session commences.

Though several attempts to pass state legislation have failed in the past few years, the state's lawmakers say they are hopeful that this year will be different.

“People have to realize that it’s that message that you have to get across, that might be the last message you send,” Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Joe Sanchez said, according to NBC Miami.

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