Although the city of Bexley already has passed an ordinance to make text messaging while driving illegal, state Rep. Nancy Garland (D-New Albany) intends to take it a step further.

Although the city of Bexley already has passed an ordinance to make text messaging while driving illegal, state Rep. Nancy Garland (D-New Albany) intends to take it a step further.

Garland, who represents New Albany, Bexley, Gahanna, Whitehall and parts of Columbus, proposed House Bill 270 with Rep. Connie Pillich (D-Montgomery) this summer to ban texting while driving statewide.

The bill, currently in committee in the House, would make texting or messaging on a mobile device, such as a wireless phone, a personal digital assistant (PDA), a computer or a similar device, illegal in all cases except in an emergency.

Texting while driving would be a primary offense. The ordinance Bexley City Council passed Sept. 22 also states that the violation would be a primary offense. That means a driver could be pulled over if suspected of texting while driving.

Garland said she wants Ohio residents and visitors to know that when they are in Ohio, they have to put their texting thumbs back on the wheel.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 18 states and Washington, D.C., have passed similar legislation.

Garland met with students and community members at Capital University on Thursday, Sept. 24, to discuss her proposed law.

"If we do it statewide, it will be easier," Garland said last week. "I feel very strongly about this."

Garland said a few similar bills are circulating around the House and probably more in the Senate.

She said she hopes representatives could settle on one bill within the next several days and pass it by the end of the year so it could move onto the Senate to approve sometime in early 2010.

Garland said she is working closely with officials from AAA and the National Transportation Safety Board to get more information out about distracted driving.

"We are hoping we can prevent the accident before it happens," she said.

Garland took questions from the audience about her proposed legislation.

Ohio State University senior Jenna Mann, 19, asked Garland how police officers would differentiate between texting and using a cell phone for other purposes, such as the built-in global-positioning satellite system that many new phones provide.

Garland said enforcement would be easier than many people might think.

"We have methods to be able to do this," she said. "You can see on your phone you were texting."

Others asked Garland if police officers would be able to take a person's phone to see if that person had been texting.

She said debate over this continues.

Jed Morison, a Bexley City Council member who attended Garland's meeting, said he thinks the Bexley police officers would use common sense on the issue.

"Our intent is not to take the phone," he said. "It's going to take some time."

Capital University student Brittany N. Carter, 18, asked Garland why she isn't proposing a ban on all cell-phone usage in a car.

Garland said texting is more dangerous than talking on a cell phone because texting usually requires taking eyes off the road.

"We need to start somewhere," Garland said. "The chance of passing the texting bill is good."

Garland will be at Java's Cyber Espresso Bar, 1050 Beecher Crossing North, Gahanna, at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 3.