Current law only allows officers to stop texting motorists if they commit some other violation first, such as speeding.
House Bill 637, which passed the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday on a 10-2 vote, would change texting while driving to a primary offense, instead of a secondary offense. The bill would also ban use of cell phones while operating a vehicle in an active construction zone or a school zone during restricted hours.
Currently, 39 of the 44 states that ban texting while driving make it a primary offense.
The bill has support from insurance groups and safety advocates.
“There is widespread consensus that Ohio’s secondary enforcement ban on reading, writing or sending text-based communication while driving, has done little to change driver behavior,” said Kimberly Schwind of the Ohio Conference of AAA Clubs. “Upgrading the law to primary would provide law enforcement the tools they need to take action when they observe drivers engaged in this dangerous driving behavior.”
Brock Dietrich told state representatives on Tuesday that his 17-year-old daughter, Sydnee, lost control of her car on a straight stretch of highway when she glanced down at her cell phone. She died in a violent crash.
Texting and cell phone use for drivers aged 16 and 17 is prohibited by state law but Dietrich said it should be banned for all drivers.
“I used to text and drive and I live with the guilt everyday that Sydnee learned this behavior by watching me,” said Dietrich, of suburban Columbus.