Gov.-backed bill makes distracted driving primary offense


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is backing legislation that makes distracted driving reason enough to pull someone over.

The bipartisan bill in the Ohio Senate addresses writing, sending or looking at texts, watching or recording photos or videos, or livestreaming while handling an electronic device, among other activities.

The legislation would make those a primary offense, meaning police don’t need another reason first — such as speeding — to pull drivers over. The bill would also increase fines for people who are caught regularly using electronic devices while driving.

Exemptions include using a phone to place an emergency call or using hands-free functions to talk on the phone or dictate texts.

DeWine said Thursday it’s time for a cultural recognition that distracted driving is just as bad as driving while drunk.

Traffic deaths on Ohio roads have increased in five of the last six years, according to the State Highway Patrol, with 2019 the second-deadliest years of the decade according to preliminary data.

A Democratic lawmaker introduced a similar bill last month in the Ohio House.