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Distracted driving bill clears Ohio House committee

smarthphone in car

An Ohio House committee has signed off on a bill to tighten rules around distracted driving after making some changes to the proposal.

The bill makes using a phone while driving a primary offense, meaning police don't need another reason to pull drivers over.

Before signing off, the committee removed a provision banning drivers from using a phone at a stop light. The measure now goes to the full House for consideration.

Rep. Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) told lawmakers during an earlier committee hearing that a violation comes with a stiff fine that would continue to increase after multiple offenses.

“Offenders will be required to pay a fine of $150, or they may elect to go to a distracted driving course instead of paying the first fine,” said Abrams.

A second offense within two years of the first offense would result in a $250 fine. It would be no more than a $500 fine if there is another offense within two years of the two violations.

Abrams and Rep. Brian Lampton (R-Beavercreek) are co-sponsors of the bill. They said polling shows that distracted driving is the number one concern among motorists on the roads and that a hands-free law would reduce injuries and death.

“The goal is to ensure the safety of all of us that are using our roadways and give us all more, and better, peace of mind,” Lampton said during a House Criminal Justice Committee hearing. “What we need to do is just change the culture, okay? We need to make it unpopular to look at your phone and text and drive.”

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.