COLUMBUS -- Drivers who break certain traffic laws while texting or engaging in other activities that distract their attention from the road would face an extra fine, under legislation moved by the Ohio House.
HB 95 passed on an unofficial vote of 71-10 and heads to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.
Backers hope the proposed law changes will prompt drivers to keep their focus on the road when behind the wheel.
"Distracted driving, as we know, is extremely dangerous and, unfortunately, all too common," said Rep. Jim Hughes (R-Columbus), a primary co-sponsor of the bill. " To be clear, our goal is to encourage Ohio drivers to be cautious when driving, to think of the safety, whether it's theirs or somebody else, before they get behind that wheel."
He added, "Nothing is worth losing your life or harming somebody else."
Under HB 95, drivers who commit moving violations while texting or using other electronic devices or who engage in other activities that take their attention off the road would face an extra $100 fine one top of other citations.
Those who choose to attend and successfully complete a distracted driving safety course established by the state wouldn't have to pay the extra fine.
The legislation would cover more than 40 moving violations, including disobeying traffic signals, speeding, driving on the wrong side of the road or on sidewalks or "driving over an unprotected fire hose," according to an analysis by the state's Legislative Service Commission.
Officers would have to witness the distracted driving behavior and would have to be issuing citations for covered violations in order for the enhanced penalty to take effect, Hughes said.
Last year, nearly 14,000 drivers in Ohio crashed while being distracted by something in their vehicles, according to statistics compiled by the State Highway Patrol. More than two dozen of those drivers were killed as a result, and distracted driving accidents caused nearly 7,300 injuries.
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for GateHouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.