DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – A bill just proposed in the Ohio Statehouse would make distracted driving a primary offense, meaning police could stop and issue tickets to drivers who are using cellphones while driving.
As of now, distracted driving is a secondary offense, so drivers can still get a ticket but only in connection with another traffic offense.
Representative Mary Lightbody, (D-Westerville) is the lawmaker who sponsored the bill, and says giving officers this extra authority would make roads safer.
“I met an individual whose name is Sharon Montgomery, who lost her husband in a tragic accident caused by a distracted driver,” said Lightbody. “She was in the car as well, she was badly hurt, and was in the hospital for months. When she recovered, she learned the accident had been caused by an older gentleman who was using his phone.”
Lightbody cited in her proposal statistics showing 58 Ohioans were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2017, but she added these statistics may be under reported.
“There are other states that have adopted primary offense distracted driving bills and in almost every state I think statistics show that accidents have been drastically reduced in those states,” said Lightbody.
Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Sheldon Goodrum said in 2018, OSP handled 13,700 crashes due to distracted driving.
He said that number decreased to about 13,000 in 2019, but that that’s still 13,000 too many.
“Driving down I-75 or I-70, going 65 mph with all this traffic around you, taking this attention off the road for even a second puts not only you, but the people in your vehicle, and everyone else out on the road in danger,” said Goodrum.
And Goodrum said it’s very apparent when people are driving while on their phone or another device.
“They don’t see us in the crossover or us driving up next to them,” said Goodrum. “They’re constantly looking down and a lot of times that comes with swerving and braking abruptly.”
Lightbody said the bill will go to a committee before it can be considered by the Ohio Senate.
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