By Melanie Speicher -

SIDNEY — Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart has a safety tip that should be used on the Fourth of July holiday and all year round.

“Don’t text and drive,” said Lenhart in his weekly interview. “Don’t talk on the phone and drive. If you really need to text or call someone, pull over to the side of the road and stop your vehicle. But don’t text while you’re driving.”

“This is hurting us locally with crashes,” said Lenhart. “Every day in America, nine people die in crashes and 1,200 are injured. That’s 3,500 deaths a year and 44,000 injuries a year.

“Twenty-five of those crashes involve distracted drivers,” he said. “Twenty-seven percent of all fatal crashes involve texting.”

Lenhart said after a crash, law enforcement can check the black box in the vehicle to determine how fast the driver was going, the time that crash occurred and whether the occupants were wearing seat belts. They can also get a subpoena to get the information about the phone’s data at the time of the crash.

“Ohio law is specific — teens 17 years and younger cannot be texting or talking on the phone if they are the driver of the car,” said Lenhart. “Law enforcement, if they see a young person texting, will stop them and check to see if they are texting. If they are, they will receive a ticket. There’s $150 fine attached to it and I believe their license will be suspended for 60 days.”

If the driver is over 18, said Lenhart, they cannot be stopped unless there is a primary violation such as speeding, weaving or running a stop sign.

“There are 43 states which have texting bans,” said Lenhart.

When a person is driving and attempts to type a text, there is a chance they could become involved in a crash, said Lenhart.

“If you are going 55 mph, in 5 seconds you are traveling the length of a football field. If you turn you eyes away from the road, that puts the vehicle down the road and the driver isn’t aware of where they are,” said Lenhart. “That gets folks in trouble.”

People think they can multitask, but they can’t when it comes to driving and texting, said Lenhart.

In the past year, in Shelby County, there have been crashes in which texting has been the cause of the crash. fatal

“We’ve had two buggy crashes and multiple other crashes where texting has been involved,” said Lenhart. “There have been two fatal crashes where people were texting or were talking on the phone.”

Lenhart said he has asked his deputies to enforce the no texting rules when they are patrolling the roads.

“They will write them a ticket,” said Lenhart. “That’s the easy part of it. The hard part is if the person is involved in a crash.If they are involved in a fatal crash, they will have to live with that fr the rest of their lives. And they’ll be dealing with civil lawsuits.”

So his message is quick and to the point: Don’t text and drive.

“If you are a passenger in a vehicle, insist that the person driving doesn’t text,” said Lenhart. “Volunteer to send the text them.”

Lenhart said parents also have the option of installing an app on their teen’s phone that stops them texting while they are driving.

“If you have an important message or phone call that you have to make, pull over and park the car,” said Lenhart. “I’ve seen women putting on makeup while they’re driving or someone eating while driving. These are all distracted driving issues we need to stop doing.”

By Melanie Speicher

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.

The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.