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Lawmakers approve bill prohibiting Ohioans from using phones, other devices while driving

The bill makes texting and driving a primary offense, implements a "single swipe" policy and prohibits drivers from holding and looking at electronic devices.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lawmakers signed a bill Thursday morning that would prohibit Ohioans from using phones or other electronic communication devices while driving.

The bill makes texting and driving a primary offense, implements a "single swipe" policy and prohibits drivers from holding and looking at an "electronic wireless communications device," with certain exceptions.

State Rep. Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) said the bill is a victory for Ohio.

“Today we made history in the Ohio legislature by passing effective legislation that is going to save lives. I want to thank our colleagues in both chambers for moving this legislation and prioritizing safety,' said Abrams, who is a co-sponsor of the bill.

From 2013 to 2019, more than 91,000 distracted driving crashes occurred the state, according tot he Ohio State Highway Patrol. The crashes resulted in 47,000 injuries and 305 deaths.

Earlier this year, 10TV sports anchor Dom Tiberi testified in support of the legislation. Dom lost his 21-year-old daughter, Maria, in a distracted driving crash on Sept. 17, 2013.

Since then, the Tiberis and their 10TV family have been on a mission to teach young drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.

Maria's Message was created and Dom has delivered her message to 150 schools throughout Ohio.

Dom has led the charge in teaching high school students – some just about to get their license – what an important responsibility driving is.

Maria Tiberi Foundation Simulator Labs have been installed at Tolles Career and Technical Center and Eastland Career Center. A third simulator lab is in the process of being installed at Fort Hayes career center.

"I can't put into words what this has done to me, but I am forever changed over the loss of my child, and I don't want other people to feel this," said Cherie Hannah, who lost her daughter Kendall Dawn in May 2014.  

Credit: Cherie Hannah

Kendall was driving home on Mother's Day, when she drove off the road while texting. 

"She didn't survive, and now it's my mission in life to live on for her," Hannah said. 

Hannah joins many advocates that are celebrating the passage Senate Bill 288.

"We are taking the small win and the baby steps that at least now in Ohio, it is a primary offense to use your phone in your hand while driving. So, you can't text, you know, these are the most egregious offenses that we feel like we did get a victory with texting, TikTok, live streaming video calls, social media emailing all of those behaviors while driving are now against the law as a primary law," said Jennifer Smith, CEO of stopdistractions.org

"This is not about giving tickets, you know, law enforcement, the advocates, the families, everyone that wants these laws passed...it's because we don't want any more families to experience a preventable loss. It's not about tickets. We hope not a single person gets a ticket. There's a warning period, you know, we know people know they can do better, so we just hope that this is the first step for us all to do better," Smith said.

The legislation now heads to Gov. Mike DeWine's desk for his signature.

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