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Ohio Patrol cracking down on distracted driving; state considering higher fines

Published: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 3:08 PM
Updated: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 3:25 PM
By: Lynn Hulsey - Staff Writer

The Ohio State Highway Patrol is cracking down on distracting driving with a special effort through July 22.

This is part of a six-state project which includes all of the states that border Ohio. 

“Distracted driving is a reckless and dangerous behavior,” said Colonel Paul A. Pride in a statement. “If you’re behind the wheel, you need to be completely focused on driving. The Ohio State Highway Patrol and our law enforcement partners in our neighboring states know the devastating effects of distracted driving.”

RELATED: Ohio considering major changes for teen drivers

Driving while distracted could cost you an extra $100 if you are pulled over for speeding or another moving violation under a bill the Ohio House of Representatives approved last month.

The law goes beyond driving while texting and State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, says it goes too far because it also covers talking on the phone, switching radio stations and other distractions beyond texting.

“To me, its overly expansive. Its not just texting while driving. It’s everything,” Antani said.

“While cracking down on distracted driving is important, this bill will criminalize talking on the phone while driving which is terrible government overreach.”

The bill passed 71-10 but would not become law unless approved by the Ohio Senate and signed by the governor.

The bill is co-sponsored by State Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, and State Rep. Jim Hughes, R-Upper Arlington. It covers moving violations such as speeding, running red lights, disobeying any traffic devices, driving too slowly, improper lane changes and other offenses.

RELATED: Teens involved in more crashes in summer months

“Inspired from previous efforts to bring attention to the dangers of distracted driving, Rep. Hughes worked in coordination with the Ohio Department of Public Safety to draft legislation to create this enhanced penalty, which would not add points to an individual’s driver’s license and would not go on their driving record,” according to a news release on Hughes’ website.

“The enhanced penalty for distracted driving as proposed in House Bill 95 will help provide a deterrent to this reckless and dangerous activity,” Hughes said. “Ultimately, the goal is to save lives by making our roadways safer.”

A person could only be cited for “distracted driving” if the law enforcement officer witnesses the offense while the moving violation is occurring, according to the bill.

In lieu of the fine an offender may instead attend distracted driving safety courses, according to a summary of the bill by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.

The bill defines “distracted” as:

- Using a handheld electronic wireless communications device - including phones, tablets and computers - except when it is on speakerphone or otherwise hands-free.

- Any activity “that is not necessary to the operation of a vehicle” and could or does impair the driver.