Fines start at $150 as grace period ends for Ohio Distracted Driving law
Back in April, a new law went into effect in Ohio to crack down on distracted driving.
Up until April 4, 2023, drivers holding a cell phone or other electronic device in their hands while driving was considered a secondary traffic offense in Ohio, meaning a driver would need to commit a more serious offense to be pulled over.
"It becomes a primary violation so if we see somebody holding or operating their phone, we can stop them solely for that violation," explained Matt Abbey, Sergeant with the Ohio State Highway Patrol Canfield Post.
Under this new law, that is no longer the case, meaning a police officer can and will pull you over if they see you holding a cell phone or supporting it with any part of your body as you drive.
"We're always looking for it," Abbey added. "We've seen it before but we weren't able to take much action on it. Now with it being an enforceable violation, we're always looking for it."
This law went into effect on April 4, and for the first six months, there was a grace period where if drivers were caught, they'd simply be given a warning. Starting Thursday, October 5 though, that grace period is over and drivers can face some hefty consequences if they're caught.
For the first violation, drivers can expect to face a $150 fine and two points on their driver's license. A second violation will net a driver a $250 fine and three points on their license and a third violation and beyond will net drivers a fine of up to $500, four points on their license, and the possibility of a 90-day license suspension.
Additionally, if you're caught violating this law in a work zone, those fines will be doubled.
There are some exceptions to this law though. These exceptions are as follows:
- Drivers may report an emergency to law enforcement, a hospital health care provider, fire department or other similar emergency entity.
- Drivers may hold a phone up to their ear during a phone conversation provided they did not manually dial the number while behind the wheel and can start and/or stop the call with a single tap or swipe.
- Drivers may hold a phone or electronic device while stopped at a traffic light or parked on a road or highway.
- First responders may use phones or electronic devices as part of their official duties.
- Licensed operators may use an amateur radio.
- Commercial truck drivers may use a mobile data terminal.
Drivers 18 and over may use hands-free technology such as Bluetooth or other integrated systems in the vehicle as long as they do not hold the device or manually type in any letters, numbers or symbols.
However, drivers under the age of 18 are not allowed to use their devices in any way including the hands-free features.
Also, drivers may still use their devices for audio streaming and GPS apps as long as they start them before driving and can activate, modify or deactivate them with one touch or swipe.
OSHP reported serious or lethal crashes decreased by 21% so far this year. Abbey said this new law could be helping with those numbers.
"Distracted driving is one of the primary causes of crashes we're having now," he said. "It's one of the big ones. If we could reduce distracted driving issues, then naturally crashes would reduce as well."
OSHP recently reported more than 1,300 Ohioans received warnings after violating the law since April. This comes as distracted drivers kill an estimated 9 Americans every day, according to the CDC.