COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine signed a piece of legislation on Tuesday that, in part, will make distracted driving a primary offense in Ohio.
Senate Bill 288 will allow people to be stopped by police solely for holding or using a cellphone while driving. It specifically will prohibit drivers from “using, holding, or physically supporting” a cellphone.
“This bill is about a lot more than pulling people over and handing out tickets,” DeWine said. “It's about changing the culture around distracted driving, and normalizing the fact that distracted driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving.”
The legislature comes with some exceptions, such as if they are stopped at a red light, using a speakerphone function without holding the phone, or holding phones to their ears for calls but not using texting or typing functions.
From 2013 to 2019, more than 91,000 distracted driving crashes occurred the in state, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The crashes resulted in 47,000 injuries and 305 deaths.
Preliminary traffic data from 2022 indicates that at least 1,269 people were killed in traffic crashes last year.
DeWine previously said the distracted-driving measure would spare many families from losing a loved one. The DeWines lost their daughter Becky to a car accident in 1993.
The law will go into effect in 90 days.
10TV Sports Anchor Dom Tiberi was also in attendance of Tuesday's attendance.
Earlier this year, Dom 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.
The bill, which received bipartisan support, also will let inmates earn more time off prison sentences, make it easier to keep some criminal records out of the public eye, decriminalize fentanyl test strips, make strangulation a separate offense, outlaw fertility fraud by doctors, and mandate age-appropriate education about child sexual abuse prevention in schools, among other changes.
To view the complete legislation, click here.