If a pair of Ohio state lawmakers get their way, drivers in
the state would be required to keep their hands off their phones.
Democratic Rep. Catherine Barrett of Cincinnati and Sen.
Teresa Fedor of Toledo have sponsored companion bills that would ban hand-held
cell phone use while driving. Talking on a phone equipped with a “hands-free” device would still be permitted.
Young drivers with temporary instruction permits would be
barred from using any phone.
The measures would make it a secondary offense to drive
while using a hand-held phone – meaning a person would have to be pulled over
for another violation before they could be ticketed for talking on the phone.
Violators would face a $100 fine. Repeat offenders could be jailed for 30 to 60
days. It also could result in two points on a driver’s license.
Emergency calls would be exempted.
The efforts also call for establishing an offense of “inattentive driving,” which is defined as operating a vehicle while the
driver’s attention is diverted “to an unreasonable degree” by a distraction
Currently, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey have the
only statewide laws restricting cell phone use in vehicles. That list may grow,
however, as more studies underline the risks and dangers of driving while
talking on the phone.
The latest study to find that using cell phones while
driving can distract drivers, regardless of whether they’re using a hands-free
device, was released this week.
The human brain can’t simultaneously give full attention to
both auditory and visual tasks, according to research by Johns Hopkins
University in Baltimore.
“Our research helps explain why talking on a cell phone can
impair driving performance, even when the driver is using a hands-free device,”
Steven Yantis, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain
Sciences at the university, said in a press release. “When attention is deployed
to one modality – say, in this case, talking on the cell phone – it necessarily
extracts a cost on another modality – in this case, the visual task of
In other words, if you’re on the phone, you’re brain can’t
devote as much attention to driving.
HB274 is in the House Transportation, Public Safety and
Homeland Security Committee. SB157 is in the Senate Judiciary Committee.