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Bill would allow Ohio drivers to be pulled over just for using cell phone

Cincinnati already gives police that power
Posted at 8:26 PM, Jan 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-17 21:34:39-05

CINCINNATI — Carol Lucio says the average text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for five seconds.

“At 55 mph, five seconds is like driving the entire length of a football field blindfolded,” says Lucio, coordinator of Butler County Safe Communities.

“It blows my mind how many people are going 65 to 80 mph and they’re on their phones.”

That’s why Lucio supports a proposed state law, Ohio House Bill 468, that would allow police to pull over drivers just for using cell phones and other handheld devices.

Cincinnati’s municipal code already makes using a cell phone or other device while driving a primary offense, so nothing will change in the city if the bill becomes law. But supporters say the bill would help other parts of the state catch up.

Under current Ohio law, using a cell phone is a secondary offense, and police have to see you commit a primary offense like speeding or weaving in and out of lanes before they can cite you for using a cell phone.

Not everyone agrees the new bill is a good idea. Count the ACLU of Ohio in that group.

Lucio said Ohio is one of only four states where texting while driving is not a primary offense. She said the proposed law wouldn’t make the problem go away, but it would help address distracted driving.

“Distracted driving is more than just the cell phone, but the cell phone is a major culprit,” Lucio said.

Since 2013, distracted driving has caused 91,000 crashes on Ohio roads with 47,000 injuries and 305 deaths, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation. But ODOT warns those numbers are probably low since the crime is under-reported.

Shakiyla Cunningham of North Avondale has a Commercial Driver’s License and drives all day long. She also pays close attention to the drivers around her.

“All you see is the scrolling,” Cunningham said.

“A lot of things can happen in a split second and because you’re not paying attention … it could be a life-or-death situation.”