(WKBN) – A local woman passionate about banning texting and driving has been waiting a long time for this moment. On Thursday in Columbus, Governor Mike DeWine and a number of state lawmakers unveiled a new, tougher bill aimed at stopping distracted driving.
If passed, the measure would allow police to pull drivers over if they’re caught not paying attention behind the wheel.
Tina Yanssens remembers the day back in 2012 when then-Governor John Kasich signed Ohio’s first law banning distracted driving.
“It was a good starting point,” she said.
Yanssens had championed the measure ever since her own father was killed by someone who was texting and driving more than a decade ago now.
But, she admits that the law, which considered distracted driving only a secondary offense, wasn’t making enough of a difference. In fact, the state’s own figures show an almost steady increase in fatalities since 2010.
“And 2019 is on target to be the second deadliest year ever in the state of Ohio,” Yanssens said.
But this week, DeWine put his support behind an even tougher bill that would make texting and driving a primary offense.
State Senator Sean O’Brien co-sponsored the new measure admitting that up until now, few in the legislature thought they needed or wanted to go this far.
“We have statistics now that vindicate doing this as a primary offense. So I think the time now is… look, we’re going to save lives,” O’Brien said.
Yanssens said it has been a long time coming.
“We’re finally making it a priority, and that’s very important to the families like mine, who’ve been struggling for the last, in my family, almost 11 years,” Yanssens said.
While this new bill still must be approved by both the House and Senate and signed into law, Yanssens said she and others like her will continue pushing until drivers change their behavior.