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Ohio bill adds additional penalties for distracted driving

While they were once seen as a luxury 20 years ago, these days just about everyone in Cincinnati uses a cell phone. Moreover, with the advent of smartphones, cell phones these days can do more than ever before. Not only can they make phone calls, but they can text, access social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, take photos, send and receive emails and so much more. However, cell phone use can be distracting, especially while trying to engage in another task, such as driving. Oftentimes, when a person combines cell phone use and driving, it has the potential to lead to a devastating auto accident.

Two Ohio State Representatives, Rep. Bill Seitz and Rep. Jim Hughes, are tackling distracted driving head-on through the introduction of a bill that would increase penalties related to texting and driving. House Bill 95 would impose a $100 fine, in addition to other current penalties for traffic infractions, if the driver of a motor vehicle was using a "handheld electronic communication device." That includes not just cell phones, but also tablets and laptop computers.

Under the bill, distracted driving is defined as any action that is not related to driving and that compromises the driver's ability to handle their motor vehicle safely. If a person violates this law, they can either undergo a distracted driving safety course or pay the $100 fine. There is an exemption for the use of hands-free devices.

Distracted driving is a serious concern in the United States. The AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index reports that over 80 percent of drivers in the U.S. said distracted driving compromised their safety while on the road. In addition, according to federal data, distracted driving is an issue in 16 percent of all fatal motor vehicle accidents. Moreover, a AAA Foundation study reported that teenagers in particular engage in distracted driving nearly 25 percent of the time they are behind the wheel.

It is important that all drivers operate their motor vehicles with due care and this includes refraining from texting and driving. Whatever the text is, if you are behind the wheel, it can wait. Crashes caused by distracted driving can injure or even kill innocent people. Such negligence deserves to be acted upon, which is why those harmed by a distracted driver may want to look into the possibility of filing a personal injury lawsuit.

Source: Dayton Daily News, "Texting while driving may lead to higher fines, penalties in Ohio," Laura A. Bischoff, March 15, 2017

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