TheColumbus Dispatch reported that state Senator Andrew Brenner, a Republican, called into a meeting with the state’s Controlling Board.
At the beginning of the meeting, Mr Brenner can be seen sitting in his car with his seatbelt secured across his chest.
About five minutes into the discussion, Mr Brenner’s background abruptly changed. Rather than appearing to sit in his car, the lawmaker’s background showed a living room. It might have been an effective ruse had Mr Brenner not been wearing his seatbelt.
Later in the discussion it becomes clear that Mr Brenner is not only still sitting in his car, but that he is driving as he participates in the call.
The incident occurred on the same day Mr Brenner’s bill to ban distracted driving was announced.
“A recent survey found that distracted driving is overwhelmingly the number one concern for Ohio drivers,” Republican state Rep Cindy Abrams, toldThe Center Square. “The goal of this bill is to make our state a safer place to travel and reduce the amount of deaths and injuries on our roads.”
The bill would make it a “primary offence” to hold an electronic device for drivers under the age of 18. For adults it would be a secondary offence, which means they would first have to be stopped for another reason before facing a penalty for holding a device.
Under Ohio’s current law there are no rules prohibiting drivers from using electronic devices for any activity outside of texting while driving.
Ohio’s Republican Governor Mike DeWine said he planned to include provisions against distracted driving in his upcoming budget proposal.
“Ohio’s current laws don’t go far enough to change the culture around distracted driving, and people are dying because of it,” Mr DeWine said in a press statement. “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.”
Mr Brenner’s bill would make it an offence for anyone using their phones for photos, videos, or GPS.
The lawmaker defended himself after images of him on the call began circulating on social media.
“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 said.
Mr Brenner said he frequently takes calls while driving.
“I’ve actually been on other calls, numerous calls, while driving,” he said. “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.”
Despite claiming there was nothing wrong with taking the call while he was driving, Mr Brenner still chose to change his background to resemble the interior of a home.
According to the US department of transport, the number of Americans killed in 2019 from distracted driving was 3,142.