LIMA — Thanks to a new law, answering a text or eating while behind the wheel might literally cost you.
A new distracted driving law that went into effect at the end of October tags an extra $100 fine to a traffic violation if a driver is found to be inattentive while operating a vehicle.
“A lot of people tend to think, ‘I can do this. It’s not a danger,’ and it’s not a problem until it is a problem,” Lt. Tim Grigsby, Lima post commander with the Ohio Highway Patrol, said.
Ohio does have an anti-texting law on the books, but the latest distracted driving fine can be added if drivers are “engaged in an activity not necessary to the vehicle’s operation that impairs their ability to drive safely.”
Sgt. Roy Brock with the Allen County Sheriff’s Office said several accidents in the county have been attributed to distracted driving, but the enforcement of Ohio’s current anti-texting law can be difficult as officers need to prove that someone was texting while driving.
Thanks to the broader distracted driving definition, Grigsby said the new law will be relatively simple to enforce in comparison. Instead of spotting someone texting, officers just need to note that distracted driving occurred — anything from eating to talking to the phone to fiddling with the radio — when filing their violation reports, and the extra $100 fine goes into effect in addition to any fines earned from the primary violation.
“We need to treat driving for what it is. It’s an important function, but we need to treat it with the type of respect that the types of dangers associated with it deserve,” Grigsby said.”They are putting everybody in a dangerous situation when they’re not concentrating on driving a multi-thousand pound vehicle.”
Distracted driving has become a major concern for state highway patrol, Grigsby said, and the state agency has made more than a few moves to deal with the growing problem of eyes off the road. State patrolmen have added teaching classes on distracted driving to their list of duties, adjusted enforcement patterns to better spot distracted drivers and upgraded crash reporting to better gauge the number of crashes caused by distracted driving.
But distracted driving remains prevalent for many motorists as electronic devices and other distractions have become almost the norm for many drivers — especially younger ones, Grigsby said.
Those that may be on the receiving end of the $100 distracted driving fine do have recourse to get out the penalty. Proof of completion of an hour-long online course allows the fine to be waived.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.