Ohio Official Responds After Driving During Video Meeting — as State Considers Distracted Driving Law

Virginia Chamlee
·3-min read

Ohio Senate

Ohio state Sen. Andrew Brenner reportedly said this week that he "wasn't distracted" during a recent meeting of the Ohio Controlling Board, in which he could be seen wearing a seatbelt and driving as he participated in the virtual gathering.

As The Columbus Dispatch reports, Monday's meeting took place on the same day the Ohio legislature considered a distracted driving bill.

In a screenshot of the live-streamed meeting shared by Cleveland reporter Andrew Tobias on Twitter, Brenner can be seen among the video participants. Though his background shows what looks to be a home office, Brenner himself is wearing a seatbelt.

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Brenner acknowledged to the the Dispatch that he had been driving during the meeting but said: "I wasn't distracted. I was paying attention to the driving and listening to it. I had two meetings that were back to back that were in separate locations."

He continued: "I've actually been on other calls, numerous calls, while driving. Phone calls for the most part but on video calls, I'm not paying attention to the video. To me, it's like a phone call."

He also said he was parked during the majority of the meeting but that when he was driving, "I was wearing a seat belt and paying attention to the road."

PEOPLE's request for comment from Brenner's office was not returned on Tuesday.

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Monday's Ohio Controlling Meeting was held the same day members of the state legislature introduced a measure that would prohibit driving while using an electronic communications device.

If passed, the bill would ban writing, sending or reading texts, viewing or taking photos, live streaming and using apps while driving. Those who are seen doing any of the above (or even holding their phones while driving) would be subject to a ticket.

Currently in Ohio, texting while driving is a secondary offense for adult drivers and cannot be the sole cause for a traffic stop.

In February, the state's governor — Republican Mike DeWine — announced he would be included provisions in his budget proposal that aimed to strengthen Ohio's distracted driving laws.

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"Ohio's current laws don't go far enough to change the culture around distracted driving, and people are dying because of it," DeWine said in a release announcing the proposals. "Distracted driving is a choice that must be as culturally unacceptable as drunk driving is today, and strengthening our current laws will lead to more responsible driving."

The Ohio State Highway Patrol reported more than 66,000 crashes between 2016 and 2020 that involved at least one distracted driver. Of those, the agency said 195 were fatal crashes that resulted in 212 deaths.

According to DeWine's earlier statement, Ohio, Nebraska, Missouri and Montana are currently "the only states without primary enforcement laws for adult drivers using wireless devices for text-based communications or for any purpose."