Drivers could get pulled over for holding a phone under proposed bill

A bill to change Ohio’s distracted-driving law passed the House Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday, headed for a vote on the House floor.

House Bill 283, sponsored by state Reps. Cindy Abrams, R-Harrison, and Brian Lampton, R-Beavercreek, would allow police to stop and ticket drivers solely for using mobile phones on the road.

The bill would prohibit drivers from “holding or physically supporting an electronic wireless communications device with any part of the body, with certain exceptions,” according to a news release from the bill’s sponsors.

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It was amended in committee by state Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, to say that it’s not a violation for a driver to hold a cell phone to their ear — only to be looking at it while driving. That would supersede current law, he said. Seitz also amended the bill to say that people could still use their phones while stopped at a traffic signal.

Forty-four states have distracted driving laws, and Abrams noted that traffic deaths declined in those states within two years of the laws’ passage.

In Ohio there were more than 91,000 distracted-driving crashes from 2013 through 2019, causing more than 47,000 injuries and 305 deaths, the news release said.

State legislators kicked off their five-week lame-duck session with a full day of hearings, though those bills coming up for the first time Tuesday face an uphill battle to get through both chambers before the session ends. Any bills not making the grade would have to be re-filed for consideration by the 135th General Assembly, which convenes in January.

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