Distracted drivers soon could find their wallets a little lighter thanks to Ohio lawmakers.
House Bill 95 would impose a $100 fine for any form of distracted driving, from talking on a cellphone to putting on lipstick.
"What we're trying to do is keep people's hands on the wheel," said state Rep. Jim Hughes (R-Upper Arlington), who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati).
The measure would allow law enforcement to cite motorists for distracted driving in conjuction with another moving violation. Police officers, who would have to witness the violation, would have a broad interpretation as to what defines distracted driving beyond cellphone use.
Drivers using hands-free devices would be exempt, Hughes said.
As of March 3, the bill has not been referred to a committee.
Hughes introduced the bill in the last legislative session, when he was a state senator representing the 16th District. But the bill did not advance before the session expired Dec. 31, so it was reintroduced.
The measure would piggyback on current Ohio law that makes it a minor misdemeanor to text while driving in conjunction with another traffic offense.
Hughes said distracted driving remains a concern: It caused 26 fatalities in 2016 and 39 the year prior, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
The number of violations increased from 528 in 2015 to 566 in 2017. Injuries and property damage also increased over the two-year period, the State Highway Patrol's study showed.
Lt. Rob Sellers, a spokesman for the State Highway Patrol, said the agency has not taken a position on the legislation but added, "I would say anything that brings greater awareness to distracted driving is a worthy cause."
Bexley was the first central Ohio suburb to ban cellphone use while driving, making it a primary offense. The law took effect Oct. 14.
Hughes said the $100 fine per violation would get people's attention without being draconian. It would not add points to anyone's license or affect drivers' records.
"We don't want to hardline," he said. "We can be flexible but still send the message: We want you to concentrate on driving."