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Distracted driving bill passes Ohio House

Published By The Press on November 25, 2022
Cindy Abrams In The News

By a vote of 77-14, an amended version of a distracted driving bill has passed the Ohio House of Representatives.

In its current version, House Bill 283 makes texting while driving a primary offense. When introduced and referred to the House Criminal Justice Committee, it required hands-free only use of cell phones by motorists but was amended in committee to allow use of a phone while at a stop light or when a motorist holds a phone to their ear.

The bill changes the minor misdemeanor penalty for texting while driving to an unclassified misdemeanor for the new electronic wireless communication device (EWCD) prohibition with increasing tiered penalties for violations within a two-year period.
Ohio law currently prohibits texting while driving. The prohibition generally encompasses texting, writing emails, and viewing content on the internet with some exemptions.

The bill prohibits a law enforcement officer from stopping a driver unless the officer observes the driver using or supporting an EWCD.
The Criminal Justice Committee held five hearings on the bill, which received proponent testimony from police agencies, including the Ohio State Highway Patrol, American Automobile Association, insurance companies, the Ohio Bicycle Federation, the Ohio Department of Transportation, Ohio Truckers Association, and others.

In her sponsor testimony to the committee, Rep. Cindy Abrams said she consulted with the Fix Our Roads Ohio Coalition while preparing the bill.
“In a recent poll conducted by the coalition, the number one concern for Ohio drivers is distracted driving, This is consistent regardless of age, political ideology or region of the state,” she said. “Additionally, 71 percent of Ohio’s drivers disagree with the notion that distracted driving does not merit a new law.”

Citing figures from the Highway Patrol, she said from 2013 through 2019, more than 91,000 distracted driving crashes occurred throughout Ohio, resulting in more than 47,000 injuries and deaths.

“Distracted driving crashes continue to aggressively trend upward, but go largely under reported due to a difficulty in proving a driver is engaged in distracted driving activity,” Rep Abrams said.

Only one person, Larry S. Moore, a citizen, offered opponent testimony. He called the bill “well intentioned but unnecessary.”

“We are putting our responsible citizen logic into this bill. However, the people who engage in this behavior have proven they are not responsible. They do not think like we do. If they think at all, they believe that they will not have an accident or get caught. The drivers who text while driving will continue to do so,” he said.

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