Ohio’s new distracted driver law: what you need to know


By Amantha Garpiel

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TROY — Ohio’s new distracted driver law will be going into effect Tuesday, April 4, with a six-month grace period until Oct. 5, 2023.

Under the new law, using cell phones and other electronic devices while driving will become a primary offense for all drivers.

“Deputies are fully apprised of the new statute, the first six months no tickets can be issued. It’s strictly warnings to attempt to help educate the public of the new law,” said Miami County Sheriff Dave Duchak. “We would encourage compliance, we live in a very distracting society as it is and we hope this is one more tool that will get people to put down their phones, electronic devices and concentrate on driving.”

Being a primary offense, law enforcement officers (LEOs) may stop any motorist seen using a phone or other device while driving. While using a device is a primary offense, LEOs cannot perform a search of a phone or device for evidence of recent use without a warrant or consent of the driver.

“Distracted driving crashes aren’t accidents, they’re the result of drivers who make the choice to divert their attention away from the road and risk their lives and the lives of everyone around them,” said Governor Mike DeWine in a press release. “Far too many people have been seriously injured and killed in Ohio because of poor choices behind the wheel, and we are certain that this new law will influence positive changes in behavior and save lives as a result.”

Beginning April 4, 2023, LEOs can stop motorists to issue warnings and in October officers can begin issuing citations to motorists stopped for being on an electric device while driving.

The Piqua Police Department shared a “What you need to know” that included exceptions and penalties included with the new distracted driving law.

Exceptions include a driver making an emergency call to police and fire departments or hospitals; using a phone while stopped, either on the side of the road or at a red light, or because of an emergency or road closure; holding a phone near one’s ear for a call or using speakerphone; using navigation services provided the driver is not typing in the destination or holding the phone; using a single touch or swipe to end a call; police, other first responders and utility workers are exempt provided they are using their electronic devices as part of their official duties; and the use of two-way radios by the Amateur Radio Service, i.e. “ham radio.”

More specifically, this new law and its exceptions pertain to drivers 18 years and older.

Come Oct. 5, 2023, potential penalties for distracted driving include a fine up to $150 and two points on the driver’s license for the first offense. Fines and points can be avoided on the first offense by voluntarily taking an approved course on distracted driving. The second offense may include a fine up to $250 and three points on the driver’s license, if the second offense occurs within two years of the first offense. For the third offense, drivers face fines up to $500, four points on their license and a 90 license suspensions.

According to the press release from DeWine’s office, the governor is being joined by the Ohio Department of Public Safety, Ohio State Highway Patrol and Ohio Department of Transportation to launch a new public awareness campaign to remind drivers of Ohio’s new distracted driving law.

“The new educational campaign encourages Ohio drivers to ‘Lock Your Screen Before You Rock the Road’ and includes a new website, billboards, printable posters, fact sheets, presentation slides, tip cards and social media, radio and television advertisements. Additional materials relay the simple, but important message of ‘Phones Down. It’s the Law,’” said the release.

“I think it is another tool that’s been needed for a while. There’s a lot of distracted driving and hopefully this law will help cut down on that because distracted driving has caused of a lot crashes throughout the state and throughout the nation,” said Duchak.

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