Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has recently announced plans to increase the severity of drivers caught using wireless devices while driving. For adults, they can be charged with a primary offense, and if handling a device results in serious injury or death, the punishment will mirror that of drunk driving.

In an announcement on Saturday, DeWine said: "Although Ohio's current laws are well-intended, they simply haven't gone far enough to change the culture around using technology behind the wheel. By strengthening Ohio's laws, we believe we can change behaviors, prevent crashes, and save lives."

While Ohio has banned texting while driving, it is only a secondary law, meaning that Ohio law enforcement cannot stop adult drivers using wireless devices on the road unless they break a traffic law first, such as running a stoplight. 

That means Karen can shuffle through her Spotify while going 70 mph on the interstate, and as long as she doesn’t speed or wander into the next lane, she can’t be pulled over. No matter how good Karen thinks she is at multitasking, the reality is that about 3,000 people die as a result of drunk driving each year, with the chances of having an accident being six times higher compared to driving drunk. Ohio alone was home to 1,157 traffic-related fatalities in 2019. 

Driving is (at least before quarantine) a daily occurrence for many Americans, it’s a routine just like brushing your teeth before work and letting the dog out. It is important to remember that driving is dangerous, and being behind the wheel of a 4,000-pound weapon should be treated with the utmost caution. When on the road with others, it is crucial to be as attentive as possible. 

Perhaps DeWine’s proposal will make navigating the phone’s GPS more difficult or force you to suffer through an extra round of otherwise skippable YouTube ads, but distracted driving jeopardizes the lives of the driver and those around them. If harsher punishment is needed to keep people and those around them safe, so be it.

This isn’t the first time Ohio has passed similar legislation. In 2017, Ohio passed Ohio House Bill 95, which increased the penalties for distracted driving. DeWine’s Hands-Free Ohio Bill will seek to strengthen House Bill 95. 

The proposal will be a part of Mike DeWine’s 2022-2023 transportation budget, numbered House Bill 74. The next two hearings on the budget are set to take place on Feb. 16 and Feb. 17. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) serves on the Ohio House Finance Committee, where the bill will begin its journey through the Ohio legislative process. 

Charlene Pepiot is a junior studying English at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Charlene know by emailing her @cp872117@ohio.edu.