A state senator in Ohio was caught participating on a Zoom call while driving on the same day the state legislature began debating a bill to increase penalties for distracted drivers.
But the really embarrassing part? The lawmaker unsuccessfully tried to hide that he was driving by using a virtual background of a home office.
In a statement to the Columbus Dispatch, state Sen. Andrew Brenner (R) admitted he was driving during the meeting of the Ohio Controlling Board over Zoom but denied that he was distracted.
"I wasn't distracted. I was paying attention to the driving and listening to it (the meeting)," Brenner told the paper.
Video of the 13-minute May 3 meeting was posted by the Ohio Channel. At the start of the video, Brenner can be seen sitting in his stationary car. But minutes later his camera turns off. When his camera resumes around the 3:30 mark, it appears Brenner put up a virtual background of a home office.
The camera turns off again shortly thereafter. When it turns back on around the 4:20 mark, Brenner has his seat belt fastened and appears to be driving, looking both ways as he crosses an intersection.
He told the Dispatch that for most of the meeting he was parked in his car.
"I had two meetings that were back to back that were in separate locations. And 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."
"I was wearing a seat belt and paying attention to the road," he added.
It is apparent from the video, however, that Brenner adjusted the settings on his phone several times, turning the camera on and off and changing the background.
This Ohio State Senator thought he was slick, using a Zoom background of his home office while driving... debating… https://t.co/9qilVnVPpZ— Brody Logan (@Brody Logan)1620301551.0
Ohio lawmakers on Monday introduced House Bill 283, which would ban writing, sending, or reading text messages, viewing videos or taking photos, livestreaming, or using phone applications while driving.
The proposed law would also make holding or using an electronic device while driving a primary offense, which would allow police to pull over violating drivers. Under current law, police must witness another moving violation before pulling a driver over for texting while driving.
Ohioans who get into a car accident after using an electronic device could face penalties similar to those who are caught driving under the influence of alcohol.