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Governor backs bipartisan bill allowing police to pull drivers over for using their phones

Posted at 6:06 PM, Feb 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-13 20:29:29-05

CLEVELAND — On Thursday afternoon, Gov. Mike DeWine stepped behind a podium to support an effort to curb distracted driving in the state.

"We are continuing down the path to make Ohio a safer state to drive in," DeWine said at a press conference in Columbus.

The new Hands-Free bill is a bipartisan effort from Hilliard Republican Sen. Stephanie Kunze and Bazetta Democrat Sen. Sean J. O'Brien.

"The use of wireless devices while driving has become so common that many drivers don't stop to consider the deadly consequences," DeWine said at the conference. "Although Ohio's current laws are well-intended, they simply haven't gone far enough to change the culture around using technology behind the wheel.”

The governor sees the Senate bill as an opportunity to keep driver’s safe and change behavior on Ohio roads.

"I think that people need to focus on the road,” said Amanda Vance.

She was getting gas in Rocky River Thursday when she said the newly introduced bill should make people think twice.

"Distraction of any kind is bad for you or any other driver on the road,” she said.

Right now, using a cell phone while driving is not the primary reason drivers can be pulled over by police.

The new legislation would make using your phone while driving a main reason police could stop drivers.

That would mean no texting, emailing, checking social media or typing information into the GPS while driving. The only exception is in an emergency situation.

"The purpose of this bill is not to make more traffic stops or put more people in jail, it's to get drivers to put down their phones so that people stop getting hurt,” Kunze said during the press conference. "We must make the use of wireless devices behind the wheel as unacceptable as drinking and driving is today, and we believe that tougher consequences will be a strong deterrent.”

Last year was one of the deadliest for drivers in Ohio for the last decade.

Ohio State Highway Patrol statistics show more than 13,000 crashes involving a distracted driver. Ofthose, 42 those resulted in fatalities.

The governor-backed bill is an effort to curb those numbers.

"We know, that after this bill passes, there won't be a change in behavior overnight," DeWine said.

If the bill becomes law, there would be a six-month grace period after it is enacted. In that time frame, drivers stopped would get a warning instead of a ticket.