OIA’s Carolyn Mangas and OIA member Mark Willis of W.E. Davis Insurance Agency in Columbus recently testified before the Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee in support of legislation to combat distracted driving. OIA member Rep. Brian Lampton (R-Beavercreek) is a sponsor of this initiative, known as House Bill 283, which is also supported by Gov. DeWine.
House Bill 283 is the third attempt to enact a hands-free law that makes texting while driving a primary offense. Unfortunately, legislation failed in pass in the last General Assembly and language that was initially included in the state’s transportation budget (House Bill 74) earlier this year to combat distracted driving was removed.
Ohio drivers are also largely in favor of enacting a law to make distracted driving a primary offense. A recent statewide poll commissioned by the FOR Ohio Coalition found that 78% of Ohio drivers favor a hands-free law that prohibits holding a phone to talk or text while driving, and 88% said they would obey the law. The results also show distracted driving is the top concern among Ohio drivers – more so than driving under the influence. In fact, 75% said distracted driving is as dangerous as drunk driving.
Our current laws against distracted driving are not only outdated, but quite frankly, they are inadequate. This is demonstrated by the fact that fatalities in Ohio have been rising since 2014 – even though our vehicles are getting safer. In fact, data indicates that last year was the deadliest year of the past decade for traffic fatalities in Ohio.
Ohio, Nebraska, Missouri, and Montana are the only states without primary enforcement laws for adult drivers using wireless devices for text-based communications or for any purpose. Notably, states with primary, hands-free laws have seen reductions in traffic deaths. Of the 14 states that enacted these laws before 2018, 11 saw a decrease in their traffic fatality rates within two years after passing and enforcing new laws (data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).
Finally, and most importantly, distracted drivers don’t just endanger themselves – they endanger other people. With this in mind, it is paramount that we do all we can to stop this dangerous behavior that is harming Ohioans at an alarming rate.
Your Help Needed
If you have any experiences that you can share about how distracted driving has negatively impacted you or a client, please contact OIA’s Government Affairs Manager Carolyn Mangas.