COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -- A bill that would make texting or scrolling while driving a primary offense in Ohio inched closer to becoming a law on Tuesday.
House Bill 283 was introduced more than a year ago, in May 2021, by Rep. Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) and Rep. Brian Lampton (R-Beavercreek). If enacted, law enforcement would no longer need a secondary reason -- such as a driver swerving between lanes -- to pull over someone on their phone. That electronic device would become a primary offense.
State lawmakers in the House Criminal Justice Committee unanimously reported it out of committee on Tuesday and recommended its passage, as the Ohio General Assembly kicks off its post-election lame-duck session ahead of the new year.
The bill was sent to the Ohio House with two new amendments. Drivers stopped at stop lights looking at their phones would not be in violation of the bill, and neither would drivers holding a phone to their ear while cruising. Under H.B. 283, Ohioans are also still able to use hands-free modes of communication, such as through Bluetooth, while driving.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Ohio branch of the American Automobile Association and the city of Columbus have all previously testified on behalf of the bill, among other proponents. In a March interview with NBC4, Abrams said she believes the issue at hand is nonpartisan.
“I don’t care where you live, what political party you belong to, what school you go to, what neighborhood you live in -- this affects everyone in Ohio. The minute you pull out of your driveway, you’re affected by this," Abrams said.
Around half of the states in the U.S., including neighboring state Indiana, have already put laws into place making texting or scrolling while driving a primary offense. Gov. Mike DeWine pointed to that in his annual State of the State address in March, when the recently reelected governor said distracted driving, in general, was costing too many Ohioans their lives.
Distracted driving has resulted in 72,832 crashes in Ohio as of Monday, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol's distracted driving dashboard.