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Ohio's New Distracted Driving Law Now in Effect

A man in a red flannel looks down at his cellphone while driving.

The use of electronic devices while driving is now considered a primary offense

A new bill signed into law by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine in January to combat distracted driving on Ohio roads is now in effect as of April 4, 2023.

The legislation, which appropriately goes into effect during Distracted Driving Awareness Month, grants law enforcement officials the power to pull over drivers caught holding a cellphone while operating a vehicle, with some limited exceptions. This measure represents a significant step in the ongoing efforts to improve road safety and reduce accidents caused by distracted driving.

"Signing this bill today is a great honor because this legislation will, without a doubt, prevent crashes and save lives," Governor DeWine said in a press release in January. "Right now, too many people are willing to risk their lives while behind the wheel to get a look at their phones. My hope is that this legislation will prompt a cultural shift around distracted driving that normalizes the fact that distracted driving is dangerous, irresponsible, and just as deadly as driving drunk."

Ohio's new distracted driving law

To curb dangerous driving habits, Ohio's new law designates the use of electronic devices while driving as a primary offense. This means that law enforcement officers can stop drivers who are observed using a cellphone or another device while operating a motor vehicle without the need for an additional violation.

Ohio prohibited texting while driving in 2012, but made it a primary offense for drivers under 18 and a secondary offense for adults. Practically speaking, this left adult drivers mostly free to engage in distracted driving without fear of being pulled over, unless they also committed a primary traffic violation like running a red light or speeding.

The new law marks a significant step towards reducing the incidence of distracted driving and promoting safer roads for all Ohioans. Under the new legislation, all drivers are strictly prohibited from holding, using, or supporting a cellphone while driving. Only certain exceptions are allowed, such as:

  • When a driver is parked or stopped at a red light
  • When a driver uses a single touch or swipe to answer/end a call
  • When a driver holds their phone to their ear during a phone conversation
  • When a driver needs to make an emergency call (e.g., calling police, fire, EMS, hospital)

According to data from the Ohio Highway Patrol, distracted driving was involved in at least 31 fatal crashes and 258 accidents that caused serious injuries in 2022. In addition, over the past five years, distracted driving contributed to nearly 74,000 crashes.

Governor DeWine believes the new distracted driving law will help prevent tragic accidents and save lives. DeWine and his family personally understand the devastating effects of road accidents, having lost their daughter Becky in a tragic crash in 1993.

"This bill helps ensure that Ohio law reflects modern realities while supporting law enforcement in their mission to keep drivers safe," Lt. Governor Jon Husted said in DeWine's January press release. "I commend Governor DeWine for championing this effort, which will bring about real change when it comes to distracted driving – ultimately saving lives."

Penalties for distracted driving in Ohio

For the initial six months following the law's enactment, police officers will only issue warnings to those who violate the law. After that grace period, offenders will face fines of up to $150 and two points on their driver's license for the first offense; up to $250 and three points on their license for a second offense within two years; and up to $500, four points, and a 90-day license suspension for a third offense within two years. Motorists who use their cellphones while driving in a construction zone will face double the fines.

To avoid a fine and points for their first offense, individuals can take an approved distracted driving course instead.

The new legislation also mandates that the Ohio State Highway Patrol produce an annual report detailing how many drivers have been cited for distracted driving, including data on demographics.

"Certainly not all fatal traffic crashes are caused by distracted driving, but it's no coincidence that evolving smartphone technology has coincided with increasing roadway deaths and injuries," Governor DeWine said. "Other states with similar distracted driving laws have experienced fewer fatal crashes, and we expect that this enhanced distracted driving law will have the same impact here."

Hit by a distracted driver in Ohio? Protect your rights.

If you were hit and injured by a distracted driver in Ohio, a car accident lawyer from Gervelis Law Firm can help you navigate the complex legal process of securing the financial compensation you deserve.

Distracted driving is dangerous driving, and an experienced attorney from our law firm can work tirelessly to hold the responsible driver accountable for their negligence.

Our dedicated legal team can thoroughly investigate the circumstances of your accident, gather evidence, build a strong case based on the facts, and negotiate with the insurance company to ensure that you receive fair compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and other applicable damages.

Don't wait — contact us today for a free case consultation to see how our Ohio car accident attorneys can help with your potential legal case. Our offices are in Youngstown, Canfield, Warren, Akron, Columbus, and Toledo.

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