CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced the details of a bill that aims to reduce distracted driving at a press conference Thursday.
DeWine’s proposal promises to, “change the behavior of, and increase the consequences for, drivers who use hand-held wireless devices behind the wheel,” according to a news release.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol says traffic fatalities on Ohio roads have increased in five of the past six years.
At the podium, DeWine linked these increases to the rise of distracted driving.
He explains his bill will make a “very significant” difference in the amount of distracted driving that takes place in Ohio.
“Ohio is one of only four states in the country that doesn’t have distracted driving as a primary offense,” DeWine said, “meaning that an officer can pull you over just for that.”
Last month, State Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville) proposed legislation that would do exactly that.
Lightbody’s legislation makes 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.
DeWine’s legislation, the so-called ‘Hands-Free Ohio’ bill, is sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and Sen. Sean J. O’Brien (D-Bazetta).
“The use of wireless devices while driving has become so common that many drivers don’t stop to consider the deadly consequences,” DeWine said in a release issued prior to the event. “Although Ohio’s current laws are well-intended, they simply haven’t gone far enough to change the culture around using technology behind the wheel. By strengthening Ohio’s laws, we believe we can change behaviors, prevent crashes, and save lives.”
The Hands-Free Ohio bill will make driving while handling any electronic wireless device a primary offense.
In cases where a driver using a device causes serious injury or death, the penalties will mirror those of drunken driving.