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Lawmakers consider removing cell phones from Ohio drivers' hands

Published By The Center Square on May 24, 2021
Cindy Abrams In The News

(The Center Square) – Ohio continues to push legislation that would all but eliminate drivers legally using mobile phones in cars by any method other than hands free.

Bill sponsors recently offered the first testimony to House Bill 283 before the House Criminal Justice Committee. The measure would expand the state’s texting-and-driving law with the goal of making Ohio a hands-free state.

Reps. Cindy Abrams, R-Harrison, and Brian Lampton, R-Beavercreek, pointed to a recent poll conducted by the Fix Our Roads Ohio Coalition that showed a majority of Ohio drivers want a new law.

“In a recent poll conducted by the coalition, the number one concern for Ohio drivers is distracted driving,” Abrams said in testimony. “This is consistent regardless of age, political ideology or region of the state. Additionally, 71 percent of Ohio drivers disagree with the notion that distracted driving does not merit a new law.”

Lampton testified the bill includes civil liberty protections, saying officers must inform drivers of the right to decline a search of their device, and the bill would require agencies to report the race of all individuals cited for distracted driving to the attorney general.

The bill would implement a single touch or single swipe policy that does allow drivers to use a cell phone for things that only require a single touch, but the phone cannot be held or supported by the driver. The sponsors gave the example in testimony of hitting next to change a song or accept to answer a call.

More than 91,000 distracted driving crashes happened in Ohio from 2013 through 2019, the Ohio State Highway Patrol said. Those accidents resulted in 47,000 injuries and 305 deaths.

Forty-seven states have passed various distracted driving laws, Abrams said.

Using a hand held wireless device is a primary offense for any Ohio driver under the age of 18 in Ohio. Using it for texting while driving is a secondary offense for adults, which means drivers must be stopped for another offense. There are no laws in Ohio prohibiting adults from driving using wireless devices for other nontexting activities, such as watching or recording videos, taking for viewing photos, using apps, dialing a phone number or using GPS.

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