Motorists urged to put phones away while driving


PORTSMOUTH-Local drivers should resist the urge to check their phones while operating a vehicle or risk being stopped by law enforcement. Ohio’s distracted driving law that makes using a mobile device behind the will a primary violation has gone into effect this week.

Formerly, the same infraction called for using a mobile device behind the wheel a secondary offense. That means it wasn’t considered a reason to pull someone over, but motorists could also be charged with it if stopped for another offense. Making it a primary offense means law enforcement can stop someone they see using their cell phone behind the wheel without any other infractions being observed.

“If you drive around, you see lots of people on their phone,” Sheriff David Thoroughman said Tuesday. “It starts today and for six months they’ll issue warnings for that.

Whether a motorist hits another vehicle or pedestrian or overcorrects when hitting the berm of the roadway, having their attention on a mobile device instead of the road creates a danger to the public.

“It’s very dangerous to be driving with a phone in hand,” Thoroughman said.

Undoubtedly, distracted driving can be a factor in crashes and injuries, even deaths statewide. When Gov. Mike DeWine signed the original bill into law in January, he said it will absolutely save lives.

“Right now, too many people are willing to risk their lives while behind the wheel to get a look at their phones,” DeWine said. “My hope is that this legislation will prompt a cultural shift around distracted driving that normalizes the fact that distracted driving is dangerous, irresponsible, and just as deadly as driving drunk.”

While distracted driving can be defined as any activity that takes the driver’s attention off the activity of driving the vehicle safely, this law specifically targets use of mobile devices as primary cause for a stop. So far this calendar year, Ohio Statistics and Analytics for Traffic Safety, reports 19 violations.

“Certainly not all fatal traffic crashes are caused by distracted driving, but it’s no coincidence that evolving smartphone technology has coincided with increasing roadway deaths and injuries,” DeWine said. “Other states with similar distracted driving laws have experienced fewer fatal crashes, and we expect that this enhanced distracted driving law will have the same impact here.”

Reach Lori McNelly at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1928, by email at [email protected], © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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