Distracted driving is a problem across the nation that many states are trying to address with new laws and greater enforcement. Given the number of accidents and fatalities that are believed to have occurred because of distracted driving, Ohio legislators are seeking strategies to emphasize the dangers of distracted driving and impose harsher penalties for drivers who are caught. As this attempt moves forward and negotiations continue, it remains important for people who have suffered personal injury or lost a loved one in an auto accident to understand their options.
Annual budget proposal includes strengthening of distracted driving laws
Governor Mike DeWine added changes to the distracted driving laws in the state to the budget proposal. This stems from the rising tide of injuries and deaths in crashes because of drivers who were not paying attention to the road and were instead looking at their cellphones. With the proposal, there would be a Hands-Free Ohio plan making it a primary offense if an adult is caught holding an electronic device while driving. Repeat offenders would have escalating fines. For incidents in which a driver causes an accident with people suffering injuries or losing their lives, the violation could reach a similar severity as when drivers are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If a driver is under 18, the standing law says that he or she will face a primary offense for distracted driving.
Currently, Ohio does not penalize drivers for using a device when behind the wheel unless they have committed a simultaneous primary violation like running a stop sign. If Gov. DeWine’s law is enacted as it stands, drivers would be prohibited from essentially any activity that people commonly use cellphones for including watching videos, texting, making a call, checking social media and more. The roads have become increasingly treacherous with the advent of handheld devices with myriad capabilities. In the past seven years, more than 53,000 people suffered injuries in distracted driving accidents.
Proposal will be removed from budget for assessment
Forty-six states have some form of hands-free requirements when drivers are behind the wheel. Ohio is one of the four holdouts and it is not guaranteed that the new law will be put into practice as the governor wants. As legislators negotiate the budget, the new law has been pulled. That does not mean it is shelved completely, but there will be hearings to assess it. Some legislators have expressed concern about it with law enforcement being given the right to stop people when they have not committed a severe offense. One reason for it being removed is that lawmakers do not want a criminal issue as part its budget.
Distracted driving collisions can cause immense damage
Whenever there is an auto accident in Ohio, the problem of distracted driving has become so prevalent that it is almost immediately considered as a possible catalyst. Those who have been hurt can face exorbitant medical expenses, lost income, an extended rehabilitation and other challenges. Losing a loved one in a fatal crash will cause emotional, personal and financial turmoil. Although people on the road might benefit from new laws to reduce the number of distracted drivers, no law will stop a certain number of people from using their device when driving. After an accident, gathering evidence is key when thinking about pursuing a legal claim. Consulting with experienced professionals who understand how to move forward with a case can provide guidance with how to proceed.