BROOKLYN -- Many Ohio drivers will have to change years of dangerous behavior beginning today.
What started as a ban on using a cell phone while driving in the city of Brooklyn, Ohio in 1999, has grown to a statewide ban on texting and driving. The law goes into effect August 31.
"I said 13 years ago when we started this cell phone law, I said this is going to be throughout the United States," Brooklyn police officer Rick Hovan clearly remembers. He was on the vanguard of calling for such a law and enforcing it.
Now retired, Hovan, who still puts on the uniform and works special duty assignments in his home city, is a strong supporter of the statewide texting ban. He has seen the disastrous effects of distracted drivers, especially young people.
"Once you make a mistake in that car you've got to live with it the rest of your life,"he says,"and I don't think these young people are getting it."
Mike Cicero, current prosecutor for Hunting Valley, and who has helped enforce the law as an assistant prosecutor for other suburbs in the past, says behaviors that come naturally to many young people will have to change.
"It's because people are so used to multi-tasking, especially those young adults who are what I call digitally immersed," Cicero, who also spoke as a parent and driver told WKYC. "They were born into the computer age. They even have cell phone toys for infants. It has been ingrained in them since they were very very young."
"And I have seen plenty of drivers in their 30's and 40's trying to text while driving. It's become a way of doing business. But not anymore."
The new law allows law enforcement officers to pull over drivers under the age of 18if they see themtexting. It is what's known as a primary offense, and can result in a substantial fine and loss of driving privileges.
For adults, the new law makes texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning the driver has to be pulled over for another infraction, and a ticket for texting can be added on.
"If we save one life, then it's all worth it,"OfficerHovan insists. He has come to learn that drivers can notdrive responsibly while texting.
"They all say the same thing," he relates about the multitude of drivers he has pulled over. "I can drive safely they say.I can do it without any issues."
Having seen too many serious accidents caused by distracted driving, Hovan warns, "that's until that 'event' happens, and then you can never take it back."