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New Ohio laws cracking down on 'distracted driving' take effect Monday

Posted at 12:51 PM, Oct 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-29 18:31:12-04

CINCINNATI -- Distracted driving is about to become a costlier offense on Ohio roads.

Effective Monday, new regulations and penalties went into effect pertaining to what constitutes "distracted driving."

House Bill 95 broadened the description of driving distracted beyond using telecommunications or other hand-held electronic devices while driving. Officers now can cite drivers observed to be engaged in any "activity that is not necessary for the vehicle's operation and that impairs, or reasonably would be expected to impair, the driver's ability to drive safely," according to the legislation.

The bill does not define the terms "necessary" or "impair."

Local AAA representative Jenifer Moore said the new law means things like eating while driving or changing the radio station -- if linked to a crash -- could add distracted driving to charges against the driver.

"Distracted driving is not only using your cell phone," Moore told WCPO. "It's also if you are driving trying to put on makeup, or trying to eat, picking up coffee, playing with the radio station, navigation of the GPS -- all of that can be labeled as distracted driving. So what we want is that motorists take their eyes off of those activities and keep them on the road."

The Ohio General Assembly passed HB 95 in July.

The new law also increases the fine for distracted driving by an additional $100.

Roselawn resident Donte Woods wonders if the new law will have much of an impact.

"I don't see it having much effect," he said. "It's only a moment's glance that you see someone on the phone. Being able to use police for that, I don't know that that's going to be effective."

Another law that took effect Monday broadens the scope of Ohio's Move Over law, which requires drivers to change lanes when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle displaying flashing lights, when it is safe to do so. Senate Bill 127 -- approved in June -- expands that law to include trash and recycling collection trucks.

According to AAA crash data, 21,000 Ohio crashes in 2017 involved a driver who authorities deemed to be "distracted."