This past spring, OIA joined a broad coalition of stakeholders (including many of our carrier partners) to advocate for laws that encourage safe driving habits for all motorists sharing Ohio’s roads and highways. While the coalition, known as FOR Ohio, was originally formed to advocate for much needed transportation funding, it is now supporting the efforts of the DeWine Administration to curb distracted driving by passing the “Hands-Free Ohio” bill.
This legislation, also known as Senate Bill 285, will make driving while handling any electronic wireless device a primary offense. This includes, but is not limited to, writing, sending, or reading text-based communications; watching or recording videos; taking photos or looking at images; livestreaming; using apps; entering information into GPS navigation programs; dialing phone numbers; or holding a device for a phone call. Drivers will be allowed to make emergency calls and use voice commands or single-touch activation to make calls, text, use GPS or listen to music on mobile devices. The bipartisan legislation sponsored by Sen. Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) and Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard), would also increase fines for drivers who habitually use devices while driving. In cases where a driver using a device causes serious injury or death, the penalties will mirror those of drunken driving.
OIA testified in support of this legislation and is advocating for Ohio to join the 15 other states and the District of Columbia that have adopted similar hands-free laws. This is needed as last year was the second-deadliest year of the past decade for distracted driving in Ohio and Ohio’s current laws against distracted driving are out of date and no match for smartphones’ images and texts that incessantly demand our attention.
While there is a lot of momentum behind this initiative, it is important to remember that Ohio is a state without a primary enforcement of a seat belt law or a mandatory motorcycle helmet law, so it will not be an easy task to get this legislation passed.
Senate Bill 285 has had two hearings to date and OIA anticipates further hearings to be held this fall. Questions? Contact OIA’s Government Affairs Manager Carolyn Mangas.