The new law will designate distracted driving as a primary offense for all Ohio drivers.
(Columbus, Oh.) – Tougher distracted driving laws will soon be in effect in Ohio.
Governor Mike DeWine today signed Senate Bill 288, which significantly strengthens law in Ohio related to the use of cell phones and other electronic devices while driving.
The bill designates the use of cell phones and other electronic communications devices while driving as a primary traffic offense for all drivers and allows law enforcement to immediately pull over a distracted driver upon witnessing a violation.
Under the previous law, distracted driving was a primary offense only for juvenile drivers, preventing officers from stopping adult distracted drivers unless those drivers also committed a separate primary traffic violation, such as speeding or running a red light.
The new law allows for a driver to use their device in specific circumstances, such as when their vehicle is parked or stopped at a red light. Drivers are also permitted to swipe their phones to answer a call and hold their phones to their ears during phone conversations. Emergency calls are also permitted.
“Signing this bill today is a great honor because this legislation will, without a doubt, prevent crashes and save lives,” said Governor DeWine. “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."
The Ohio State Highway Patrol reports that there have been at least 73,945 distracted driving crashes in Ohio since 2017, including 2,186 fatal and serious crashes. Traffic fatalities overall have increased in eight of nine years from 2013 to 2021, with deaths reaching their highest point in nearly two decades in 2021 with 1,355 fatalities.
Senate Bill 288 will go into effect in 90 days.
Warnings will be issued to drivers found violating the law for the first six months. After the grace period, citations could be issued. Penalties include a fine of up to $150 for a driver’s first offense and two points on their license unless a distracted driving safety course is completed.
Increased penalties can occur if the driver is a repeat offender.