Statement on the Urgent Need to Upgrade Ohio’s Distracted Driving Law

Statement on the Urgent Need to Upgrade Ohio’s Distracted Driving Law



Distracted driving is a destructive and deadly danger on our roadways.  With the evolution of smartphones and the expansion of digital communication platforms in the form of apps, cameras, social media, gaming and more, Ohio’s law needs to be updated to restrict device use and curb distraction behind the wheel.  House Bill (H.B.) 283 would accomplish this goal, and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) urges the state legislature to take swift action to advance it.

This legislation will improve safety by simplifying enforcement of the state’s distracted driving law by upgrading it to primary enforcement, by adding restrictions on distracting viewing behind the wheel, and by implementing a ban on handheld mobile device use.

Driver distraction includes three components: manual, visual and cognitive.  Experience and research have shown that comprehensive laws which address the triad more effectively deter this risky behavior.  The Transportation Research Board (TRB) recommends that state laws prohibit the use of “an electronic device to stream, record, or broadcast video,” including when the device is used hands-free.  The TRB report also advised that state laws “be in effect at all times when the vehicle is traveling on public roads, this includes at stoplights and when temporarily slowed or stopped in traffic.”  The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that the use of devices while driving can result in mental distractions that can persist for up to 27 seconds after returning to the driving task.  Provisions included in HB 283 will help address the three aspects of driver distraction.

The carnage on Ohio roads over the last two years must serve as a clarion call for action.  Tragically, the 1,153 traffic fatalities in 2019 exceeded each of the previous ten years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  Early data for 2020 shows that more than 1,200 people were killed in crashes, according to Ohio State Highway Patrol.

With each passing day, all Ohio road users – motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and other vulnerable road users – are imperiled.  Advocates calls upon the Ohio legislature to enact this sensible countermeasure this year.

Please see Advocates’ letter to the House Criminal Justice Committee supporting H.B. 283 and urging the committee to pass the bill.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safetyis an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement, and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to improve road safety in the U.S.  Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.