Distracted drivers would face stiffer penalties for moving violations — an additional $100 tacked onto the ticket — if pending legislation becomes law.
State Reps. Jim Hughes, R-Columbus, and Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, are backing House Bill 95, which is slated for a possible vote this week in the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee.
Piling on fines for moving violations is not new. Drivers who fly through a construction zone can get a speeding ticket, plus an additional fine for doing it in a marked construction zone.
The Ohio Bicycle Federation is backing the bill but also wants Ohio to make distracted driving a primary offense, meaning police could pull the driver over for that infraction. Currently, it’s a secondary offense, meaning law enforcement must observe another violation before pulling over the distracted driver.
“A study comparing cellphone use to drunk driving found that the impairments of distracted driving are as great as those observed with intoxicated drivers,” said Patricia Kovacs, a member of the Ohio Bicycle Federation.
Ohio Highway Patrol Staff Lt. Ed Mejia said distractions include texting, using a cell phone, eating and drinking, grooming and reading.
In 2014, distracted driving contributed to 2,955 fatal crashes and another 431,000 injury accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Last year in Ohio, 13,994 drivers crashed when they were distracted by something in their vehicles – a number that has climbed in recent years, Mejia said.
“Every time someone takes their eyes or their focus off the road — even for just a few seconds — they put their lives and the lives of others in danger,” Mejia said. “Distracted driving is unsafe and careless. In a split second, its consequences can be devastating.”
Columbus area sports TV personality Dom Tiberi, whose daughter Maria died in a distracted driving accident three years ago, told lawmakers that distracted driving is an epidemic. The Tiberi family is backing the bill.
“We do not want to see any other families go through this nightmare,” he said in written testimony.
In the previous two-year legislative session, three bills designed to crack down on distracted driving stalled.
Seitz, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Hughes, was a driving force to get rid of red light cameras in Ohio.
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