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Ohio Bill Makes Distracted Driving Primary Offense

phone in car

The Ohio State Highway Patrol reports fatalities on the state’s roads have increase in five of the last six years with 2019 being the second-deadliest year in the past decade. That’s why state leaders are backing a new bill to crack down on distracted driving.

Gov. Mike DeWine says the bill will ban the use of hand-held wireless devices while driving a car and will toughen penalties for distracted driving. He says it would make driving while using phones and other similar devices a primary offense.

Right now, DeWine explains, distracted driving is only a secondary offense.

“That means that today, in Ohio, law enforcement can see a driver texting or emailing, but unless that driver commits another offense such as speeding or running a red light, that officer can do absolutely nothing," DeWine says.

The bipartisan bill has widespread support from insurance companies, safety groups and families who have lost someone they love to distracted driving. The Ohio legislature has considered similar bills before but has not been able to pass them.

This isn't the first bill to crack down on texting while driving that's been introduced in this General Assembly. A similar bill, sponsored by Democrats, was introduced last month in the Ohio House and has had its first hearing.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.