Ohio bill would allow police to make traffic stops for cellphone use

Texting while driving could become primary offense in Ohio

COLUMBUS (FOX19) — An Ohio lawmaker introduced legislation this week that would allow police to stop and ticket motorists who they see using cellphones and other electronic devices while driving.

State Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville) says her proposed legislation would increase safety on roads by making it a primary offense to use handheld electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle. In many cities, including the city of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, it’s a secondary offense.

“The number of drivers I see using their smartphones while driving continues to concern me, especially as they tend to drive erratically. This legislation will address the significant danger caused by drivers who drive under the influence of their electronic devices,” she said in a news release.

Lightbody was approached more than a year ago by a constituent, Sharon Montgomery of Gahanna, Ohio, whose life was changed when she was in a tragic car accident caused by a distracted driver, according to the release.

Montgomery has become “an expert on the issue,” and served on Gov. Mike DeWine’s recent Task Force on Distracted Driving, the release states.

She worked with Lightbody’s office to help develop the legislation.

“More and more drivers are focused on electronic devices instead of traffic and vehicle operation, which puts us all at risk,” Montgomery said in the news release.

“Representative Lightbody’s legislation will reduce that risk, and I am relieved that with her leadership, Ohio would join 37 other states that filed bills to make their roads safer by outlawing handheld devices.”

According to the Ohio Distracted Driving Task Force, 58 people were killed, 493 were seriously injured and over 7,000 were injured in nearly 14,000 distracted driving accidents in 2017, the release states.

However, distracted driving is underreported because it is difficult to prove unless an officer sees it or the driver admits to it, according to the task force.

“Law enforcement officers across Ohio have found distracted driving to be an increasing problem that affects everyone on the road, including drivers and pedestrians,” Lighthouse said in her news release.

“Drivers are engaging in not only texting but watching videos and scrolling through social media while behind the wheel. I work for the people in my communities, as well as all the citizens of Ohio and they deserve to feel safe in their homes and on the roads.”

The bill has not yet been assigned to a House committee, where it would be eligible for public hearings.

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