Texting while driving may lead to higher fines, penalties in Ohio

Checking Facebook, sending snapchats, tweeting or otherwise getting distracted while driving could get expensive in Ohio.

State Reps. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, and Jim Hughes, R-Columbus, introduced House Bill 95 to add a $100 penalty on top of other fines for moving violations if the driver was distracted by a “handheld electronic communications device” — fancy legal talk for “smart phone” but it also includes laptops and tablets.

Violators would have the option of paying the $100 fine or taking a distracted driver safety course.

The bill defines distracted driving as engaging in any activity that isn’t necessary to operating the vehicle and that impairs the motorist’s ability to drive safely. Drivers using hands-free devices would be exempted.

Related: Study reveals drivers are "double distracted"

More than 80 percent of American drivers cite distraction as a serious problem that makes them feel less safe on the road, according to the AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index. Federal data suggest that distraction contributes to 16 percent of all fatal crashes. A AAA Foundation in-car study found teens were distracted almost a quarter of the time they were driving.

Related: In-car video shows teens, distractions and crashes

In the previous two-year legislative session, three bills designed to crackdown on distracted driving stalled. In the Senate in 2015, Seitz and Hughes’ pushed the same legislation to add penalties to distracted drivers who commit moving violations and a similar bill in the Ohio House failed to gain traction. Likewise, House Bill 88, which would have made texting while driving a primary offense for adults and teens alike, did not make it out of committee.


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