BEAVERCREEK, Ohio (WDTN) – A state lawmaker from Beavercreek says a new bill that would make Ohio a hands-free driving state could move forward as early as this week.
The bill would make it a primary offense to hold a phone while driving.
Early data from insurance carriers shows crash fatalities in Ohio are up 18% in 2021. There are more drivers on the roads compared to the peak of the pandemic last year, but State Representative Brian Lampton of Beavercreek says distracted driving is also to blame, and it can be stopped.
Cindy Antrican of AAA says, “It’s more than what you’re doing with your hand when you’re holding that phone. It’s what your mind is doing.”
Data shows drivers look down at their phones for an average of six seconds at a time. That means at 45 mph, they’ll drive the length of a football field before looking back up at the road.
Representative Lampton says, “If you think about it, that’s the same as closing your eyes for six seconds. I can’t imagine anyone doing that. Yet we’re doing it when we’re looking down at our phone.”
A driver poll conducted by the group Fix Our Roads Ohio shows 81% of drivers interviewed say there are more distractions while driving today than there were five years ago. And 88% of Ohio drivers say they would be willing to obey the new law.
Similar laws have already worked in other states.
Representative Lampton says, “Most of the state’s that have added a primary offense for distracted driving have seen a 20% decrease in crash fatalities two years after passage of a hands-free law.”
Representative Lampton says the bill already has bipartisan support, and support from the governor’s office, law enforcement groups, the road construction industry, and insurance companies, and safety groups.
Antrican says, “Distracted driving is a mental thing. When you get in your vehicle and set out to drive, it requires your full attention. Your full attention.”
To prevent profiling and increase transparency, law enforcement will have to file an annual report with the attorney general’s office indicating the race of people pulled over.
Representative Lampton says it’s realistic to expect it will be passed and signed into law this fall.