Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio is backing a new bill that would make distracted driving a primary offense in the state, reports Fox8.
Presently, distracted driving, which includes texting, making calls or surfing the internet behind the wheel, is a secondary offense for drivers over 18 in Ohio. That means police must have another reason — such as running a red light or speeding — to pull over the motorist and then they might also issue a ticket for distracted driving.
In a news conference, DeWine said a tougher, statewide distracted-driving law would reduce fatal crashes and deter people from using their devices behind the wheel, whether they’re caught by police or not, reports Cleveland.com.
The proposed Hands-Free Ohio Bill also increases fines for drivers who habitually use their devices while operating a motor vehicle. Specifically, penalties would be $150 for a first violation, $250 for a second violation, and for three or more violations drivers would be subject to a $500 fine and a possible license suspension.
In cases where a driver using a device causes serious injury or kills someone, the penalties will mirror those of drunken driving, according to reports.
To make the measure law, it requires approval from the state legislature.
In 2019, the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) responded to more than 40 fatal crashes directly related to distracted driving. Data from the OSHP shows that 2019 was the second-deadliest year for traffic fatalities in the past decade.