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'Hands-Free Ohio' bill aims to increase penalties for distracted driving

The bill, introduced by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, would make distracted driving a primary traffic offense.

OHIO, USA — Governor Mike DeWine is increasing the penalties for distracted driving.

The new "Hands-Free Ohio" bill is sponsored by Senator Stephanie Kunze, R-Hilliard, and Senator Sean J. O'Brien, D-Bazetta.

This bill would deem distracted driving a primary offense. Right now, it is only a secondary offense, meaning law enforcement cannot make a traffic stop unless the driver also commits a primary traffic offense, such as running a red light or swerving in and out of lanes. From there, officers often find drivers were doing that because they were on their phone, eating or doing something other than focusing on the road.

Additionally through this bill, if a driver causes an accident with injuries or fatalities because of distracted driving, the penalties would be similar to ones drunk drivers face.

"The way the law is written right now, we have the violations to stop people. Usually, a distracted driving violation is a violation that is a result of another violation. So, we're out there regardless stopping people for these violations and usually the distracted driving comes in to play after the actual stop," Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald with OSHP said. 

The bill would not include penalties for drivers using GPS, but they would have to enter their destinations before starting their cars.\

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