MARCANO: Your phone can wait

I’ll never forget the call.

My phone rang, and I saw my daughter’s name on the caller ID. I answered, but before I could say hello, I heard panicked, high-pitched screams of terror.

“Oh my God, daddy, I’ve been hit!”

A car ran a red light and hit hers, causing significant damage. Turns out the young lady driving was on her cell phone and wasn’t paying attention.

That’s one of the reasons I’m interested in Ohio House Bill 283, which would prohibit using electronic communications devices while driving except in certain emergencies. Some 25 states currently ban cell phone use while driving, and most states already ban texting while driving.

Under the bill, police can pull over any driver looking at an electronic wireless device while operating a vehicle. The bill easily passed the House (77-11) and now goes to the Senate.

The bill could be better. Drivers can still use their phones if they don’t have to enter a phone number manually (Sec. 4511.204., No. 4). In other words, a driver can put their phone by their ear and be OK if they don’t touch it. Drivers can also use wireless devices if the vehicle has come to a stop (Sec. 4511.204 No. 3).

But compromise should be the art of politics, and in this case, this is a good first step — but shouldn’t be the last step.

This newspaper quoted a House news release, saying in Ohio, “there were more than 91,000 distracted-driving crashes from 2013 through 2019, causing more than 47,000 injuries and 305 deaths.”

That’s a lot of hurt for the people injured by thoughtless drivers and devastation for families who have lost loved ones.

Remember, driving is a privilege, not a right, so lawmakers should take aggressive actions to protect its citizens and reconsider the law’s current loopholes.

Allowing drivers to have a device by their ear borders on silly season. How will they do that? Balance it on their shoulders? Keep it on their lap? Wear headphones? I’m not sure of the logic, especially since Bluetooth technology has been in cars since 2001. Nearly 9 in 10 new cars have Bluetooth, so there’s no need to touch any electronic device.

What happens when drivers drop their phones? They reach for it, even if the car’s moving. They don’t tell themselves, “Oh, I can wait until I get to my destination to retrieve my device.” They reach for it.

And why do drivers need to check their texts or notifications while stopped at a light? That’s simply more distractions that a society addicted to their devices doesn’t need.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans show signs of nomophobia, the fear of being without their phone. Four out of 10 people admit to using their phones too much, and one in five would rather go without shoes for a week than their phone.

I did not make that up.

Given those statistics, what do you think drivers will do when drivers stop? As soon as they start to slow down, they will check their phone. They will check it at a light, at a stop sign, stopped in the grocery store parking lot, you name it.

This is easy. Simply ban touching a phone for any reason except emergencies. (And while you’re at it, ban those phone holders that people have in their cars. So distracting. As soon as people hear the ping, they look at their phones and not the road. Pavlov would be proud).

This is a good first step. I hope the Senate gives consideration to making this bill even stronger.

For those worried about the ability to be connected, you can also always get off the road, pull into a gas station, and make a call or answer a text (if it’s that important). Ask yourself — of all the pings you get while driving, how many have to be answered right that very second?

That’s right. Almost none.

Ray Marcano’s column appears on these pages each Sunday. He can be reached at

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