Columbus -- I don't think it's too early to state, definitively, that Ohio's texting-while-driving ban is a joke.
By joke I mean an utter failure. A legislative misstep of gargantuan proportion. A colossal waste of the ink used to print the sections of Ohio Revised Code where it was stuffed.
OK, that's harsh. I realize the new law hasn't been in effect long enough to make such grand pronouncements, and the State Highway Patrol has not released any statistics pinpointing the number of citations issued for people caught texting on the road.
But, anecdotally speaking, I have a hard time believing the ban that went fully into effect earlier this year has really convinced anyone to stop playing on their phones or comparable electronic devices while behind the wheel of a moving motor vehicle.
I am not exaggerating when I write that at least half of the people I see driving in the Columbus area are messing around with touch screens rather than paying attention to the road.
They coast in the fast lane well under the posted speed limit, staring at some important message that can't wait.
They sit at green lights while other traffic zooms by, oblivious to the effects of their inattention.
They swerve all over the place, driving on the shoulder and crossing lines into oncoming traffic or lanes without signaling.
Sometimes they hold cigarettes or hamburgers in one hand and their phones in the other. How they manage to guide their cars down the road is anyone's guess.
Honking horns and glaring glances from the non-texting public make no difference. Culprits ignore such reproach.
The much-heralded texting prohibitions OK'd by lawmakers last year were supposed to help stop that kind of behavior.
The new law bans teens from using any type of handheld electronic communications device while driving, whether texting, talking on the phone or building some imaginary civilization out of electronic blocks.
Those who are caught face hefty fines and license suspensions.
Adults aren't supposed to be texting while driving either, but the infraction is a secondary offense, meaning they can receive a citation for it only if they're pulled over for something else.
Enforcement began last year, but fines didn't start until earlier this year following a six-month grace period.
The state hasn't prepared any specific statistics for public perusal on texting citations or warnings that have been issued to date, said Lt. Anne R. Ralston, so it's hard to know the extent of enforcement activities to date.
But there have been increased efforts to educate the driving public about the dangers of using electronic communications devices when behind the wheel.
"It's certainly an issue and what we call problem behavior," Ralston said. "We need people to voluntarily comply with the law."
She added, "It's really important to put that thing down and keep your focus on what you're doing."
Yes, please do.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.