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Lawmaker on Video Call Busted by His Seat Belt

State Sen. Andrew Brennerd drives while Zooming, on day Ohio unveils distracted-driving bill
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 7, 2021 6:28 AM CDT
Updated May 9, 2021 2:40 PM CDT

(Newser) – On Monday, House Bill 283 was introduced in Ohio in a bid to tamp down on distracted driving by banning texting, taking photos, livestreaming, or otherwise using an electronic device while behind the wheel. That same day, a state senator was busted doing just that during a virtual meeting of the Ohio Controlling Board. At the beginning of the video shown in part by WKYC, Sen. Andrew Brenner can be seen on screen sitting in a parked car. Soon after, however, he disappears momentarily from the screen, then reappears, with a background he'd changed to make it look like he was in a home office. What gave away that he actually wasn't in a home office, per the New York Times: the seat belt strapped over his shirt, and the fact that he clearly appears to be driving while attending the meeting—including at one point "[turning] his head to look over both shoulders in what appeared to be an attempt to safely change lanes."

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The Washington Post notes there were also seconds-long stretches in which Brenner glanced toward his phone multiple times. In what the paper describes as "a parable on driver safety and political irony," the Republican soon found himself the subject of ridicule online. "Did you post this while you were driving?" one commenter wrote under one of Brenner's Facebook posts later that day. Brenner pushes back on the insinuation that he was a distracted driver. "I was paying attention to the driving and listening to [the meeting]," he tells the Columbus Dispatch, noting he had two meetings one after the other that day in two different places. He adds that he's conducted "numerous calls" this way, and that he considers it more like a phone call: "I'm not paying attention to the video." Another defender, per the Post: John Fortney, communications chief for the Ohio Senate Majority Caucus, who notes, "Senator Brenner was simply following the law, using hands-free audio technology." (Read more distracted driving stories.)

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