TOLEDO (WTVG) - A new bill making its way through the Ohio State Legislature is looking to take away some of the distractions while driving by instituting tougher penalties.
Governor Mike DeWine announced the new bill, nicknamed Hands-Free Ohio, on Thursday. If passed, it will make driving while handling an electronic wireless device, like a cell phone, a primary offense, meaning officers will be allowed to pull drivers over if they are seen using the devices. Currently, it is a secondary offense, which means you can only be cited if you're stopped for another cause.
The bill would extend to actions like texting (writing, sending, or reading), watching or recording videos, taking or looking at photos, live streaming, using apps, entering information into GPS, dialing phone numbers, or holding the device while on the phone.
"The use of wireless devices while driving has become so common that many drivers don't stop to consider the deadly consequences," said Governor DeWine. "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."
According to the Governor's office, penalties will also increase for those caught using their devices behind the wheel habitually, and anyone who causes serious injury or death as a result of distracted driving will face the same penalties as a drunk driver.
Some exemptions will exist, including cases in which drivers are making emergency calls, as well as drivers using hands-free devices, or when the wireless device is a permanent feature of the car.
The bill has bipartisan support in the legislature. It is co-sponsored by senators on both sides of the aisle.