House Bill 283
On May 3, 2021, Ohio House Assistant Majority Whip Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) and Rep. Brian Lampton (R-Beavercreek) introduced House Bill 283 that would prohibit the use of a hand-held electronic wireless communications device while driving and would make doing so a primary traffic offense.
”The goal of this bill is to make our state a safer place to travel and reduce the amount of deaths and injuries on our roads,” said Rep. Abrams.
Reps. Abrams and Lampton provided sponsor testimony on H.B. 283 before the House Criminal Justice Committee, May 20, 2021. "By passing hands-free legislation in Ohio, we can break the cycle of preventable accidents that cause both physical and financial harm to our constituents," said Rep. Lampton.
Provisions of House Bill 283
Technology has become a significant tool as part of our daily routines, and as such, this bill seeks to ensure reasonable use of in-vehicle technology while also eliminating the heightened risks of motor vehicle crashes and traffic fatalities. For example, H.B. 283 allows for a number of reasonable exceptions to the primary enforcement ban:
- Exempts drivers who are placing a call to law enforcement or emergency services for immediate assistance
- Permits drivers to reasonably utilize their vehicle’s touchscreen dashboard for the purposes of navigation, changing music or accepting a phone call (so long as drivers are not typing in letters/numbers while driving)
- Includes a “one-swipe” exception allowing drivers to tap on their hand-held electronic device for the purposes of navigation, changing music or accepting a phone call on the device’s speaker phone function (so long as drivers are not typing in letters/numbers while driving and are not physically holding the wireless device)
As an additional protection for all drivers, H.B 283 will require law enforcement to document the race/ethnicity of individuals ticketed for these offenses so the state can ensure no racial or ethnic group is being unduly discriminated against with the implementation of this new law.
“The provisions of H.B. 283 are based on extensive study and on the success of similar statutes in other states that have proven to reduce crashes, prevent injuries and save lives," said Curt Steiner, spokesman for Fix Our Roads Ohio (FOR Ohio), a coalition of governmental, business and transportation groups calling for improving roadway safety.
OII President Dean Fadel on Auto Smarts Radio
OII President Dean Fadel was a guest on Auto Smarts Radio where he discussed the dangers of distracted driving and the need for tougher laws like House Bill 283. Listen to his full interview below.
Why Ohio Needs Hands-Free Legislation
Data from the Ohio State Highway Patrol shows that 2020 was the deadliest year on Ohio's roads in over a decade. Ohio ended 2020 with 1,237 traffic deaths—82 more than the 1,155 reported in 2019. In 2020, travel in Ohio was down about 17% and traffic deaths rose 7% compared to 2019.
Fatalities on Ohio’s roads have risen six of the past seven years. This rise is directly correlated to more people now having smartphones, leading to an increase in active distraction while behind the wheel. The dangers of using a hand-held electronic device while driving include greater variability in speed, position within lane (i.e., weaving) and distance from car in front, and slower reaction times that increase the frequency and severity of collisions.
The increasing number of fatalities is not only devastating to those who have lost loved ones, but is also costly to the state of Ohio. Each traffic death costs Ohio about $1.7 million and each serious injury $157,000 in monetary losses associated with medical care, emergency services, property damage and lost productivity (ODOT). These costs are incurred by the insured and uninsured across Ohio.
"Ohio's Laws Don't Go Far Enough"
Enacting a hands-free distracted driving law remains a top priority for Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. Gov. DeWine has helped bring awareness to the importance of this issue and educate lawmakers about the need for tougher distracted driving laws in Ohio. Currently, Ohio, Nebraska, Missouri and Montana are the only states without primary enforcement laws for adult drivers using wireless devices for text-based communications or for any purpose.
"Ohio's current laws don't go far enough to change the culture around distracted driving, and people are dying because of it," said Gov. DeWine. “Distracted driving is a choice that must be as culturally unacceptable as drunk driving is today, and strengthening our current laws will lead to more responsible driving.”
States across the country that have moved forward with their own common-sense distracted driving laws have seen sharp decreases in traffic fatalities. In fact, of the 14 states that enacted these laws before 2018, 11 saw a decrease in their traffic fatality rates within two years after passing and enforcing new laws, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Indiana enacted hands-free legislation in July 2020 and since then, the state has seen the lowest number of distracted driving crashes in over a decade. Arizona’s hands-free law went into effect Dec. 31, 2020 and already the state is seeing fewer drivers on their phones. A survey from the Arizona Governor’s Office on Highway Safety found 90% of drivers were not using their phones while driving.
Distracted Driving's Deadly Toll on Pedestrians
Tragically, the number of motorists and pedestrians either injured or killed due to distracted driving has surged in the past three decades. Smartphones and other handheld electronic devices are known to be significant factors in these unfortunate and preventable accidents.
- During 2018 and 2019, pedestrian fatalities reached their highest in 30 years.
- Reported fatal crashes from distracted driving also nearly doubled since the early 1990s.
- In 2019, there were approximately 36,408 traffic fatalities nationwide, – 6,301 of which were pedestrians. That means pedestrians accounted for 17% of all traffic fatalities in 2019.
- During the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, pedestrian fatalities increased by 20%, and traffic fatalities remained consistent despite the 16.5% decrease in traffic volume throughout the year.
- Tragically, people of color have been shown to represent a disproportionate number of victims of pedestrian fatalities.
Part of the advocacy efforts of FOR Ohio include connecting victims of distracted driving and their family members with their state representative. These connections have proven to have the biggest impact on legislators -- despite the overwhelming data.
If you or someone you know was a victim of distracted driving, we ask you to please share your story with StopDistractions.org. This nonprofit organization is committed to building awareness of the devastation that results when a loved one is killed or injured in a distracted driving crash, and is a partner with the coalition seeking passage of the Ohio law. Stop Distractions will share these stories with legislators as part of our grassroots efforts to build support for tougher distracted driving laws in Ohio.
Support for Hands-Free Legislation
The survey results clearly show Ohio drivers are largely in favor of enacting a law to make distracted driving a primary offense. Overall, 78% of Ohio drivers said they favor a hands-free law that prohibits holding a phone to talk or text while driving, and 88% said they would obey the law. The survey results also show that 75% of Ohio drivers think distracted driving is as dangerous as drunk driving.