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Distracted drivers could be hit with $100 fines under new Ohio law

July 31, 2018

Distracted drivers could be hit with $100 fines under new Ohio law

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Starting in late October, Ohio’s texting-while-driving ban will be greatly expanded to include any form of distracted driving -- from talking on the phone to applying makeup.

Gov. John Kasich signed legislation Monday that makes distracted driving a secondary offense in the state. That means when the law takes effect in 90 days, police who pull over motorists for a traffic violation could give them an additional ticket if any form of distracted driving contributed to the primary offense.

Offenders will have to pay up to $100 or take a distracted driving safety course.

Texting while driving has already been a secondary offense in Ohio since 2012. But House Bill 95, which passed the legislature with bipartisan support, applies to distracted driving in all its forms. Similar laws are already on the books in Connecticut, Maine, Washington state, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia, according to the American Automobile Association.

Proponents of the new law – which include police and firefighter groups, insurance companies and relatives of traffic accident victims – say it will help to make Ohio roads safer. In 2017, distracted driving was a factor in 13,976 traffic crashes in the state -- 52 of which were fatal, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

The new law isn’t expected to be a cash cow for local law enforcement. The non-partisan Legislative Service Commission concluded that local agencies’ net gain from fine payments will be “minimal,” as it will be offset by the costs of enforcing the law and prosecuting offenders.

During legislative committee hearings, no one testified against the distracted-driving ban. But some questioned how enforceable the measure would be, and others argued the measure should go further and allow cops to pull over motorists just for distracted driving.

Bob Cornwell, executive director of the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association, said he doesn’t think it will be difficult for officers to spot distracted drivers.

“It should make a big difference for drivers,” Cornwell said of the new law.

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