Sponsor of Ohio's texting-while-driving ban says more should be done strengthen law

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio lawmaker who sponsored the state's texting-while-driving ban says more should be done to strengthen the law.

State Rep. Rex Damschroder said he plans to introduce a tougher ban sometime in the next two weeks. The Fremont Republican said his new proposal would make texting while driving a primary offense. That means law enforcement officers could cite motorists for texting regardless of whether they were breaking another law.

Currently, texting from behind the wheel a secondary offense for those 18 and older. That means an officer has to stop a driver for another offense first, such as speeding or running a red light.

Younger drivers are prohibited from texting or using cellphones or other hand-held devices. For them, it's a primary offense.

Authorities have said the law is difficult to enforce, as it can be hard to tell the age of a person or when a driver is making a phone call and not texting.

In its first year in effect, the Ohio State Highway Patrol issued more than 270 citations to drivers for texting or using a cellphone in violation of the law. The tickets were handed out from March 2013 through the end of February.

Damschroder said states without primary offenses have seen little to no effect under the law.

"We as legislators have an opportunity to strengthen this law by making texting while driving a primary offense," Damschroder said in a recent statement.

Lawmakers are not expected back at the Capitol until after the November election.

Damschroder said the bill should be a priority when they return. He would have only a few weeks to accomplish its passage before the end of session.

"It is my sincere hope that my colleagues in the House and Senate recognize that this change is needed and that we can pass the bill by the end of the year," he said.

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