Distracted driving is a growing contributing factor to motor vehicle accidents nationwide. Multitasking behind the wheel using a cellphone has proven time and time again to vastly impair a driver's ability to safely operate a vehicle. In fact, distracted driving was blamed in approximately 13,976 traffic accidents that occurred on Ohio roads in 2017. Out of those accidents, the Ohio State Patrol reported that 52 of them were fatalities.
A new law going into effect Oct. 29, 2018, aims to curb the desire to pick up the phone while driving. The governor signed a bill in August that made distracted driving a secondary offense. While it's true that texting-while-driving has been a secondary offense since 2012, the new law steps up the infraction to include all hands-on cellphone use. The prior law was also enacted to make texting-while-driving laws uniform across the state. Prior to that, individual municipalities had varying degrees of texting bans, making it confusing to motorists traveling from one district to another to know when and where the practice banned.
Under the new law, when a police officer makes a traffic stop and determines that the driver's use of a cellphone contributed to the primary offense, such as speed or running a stop sign, the officer may impose an additional fine of $100. A distracted driving course may be taken in lieu of paying the fine.
What Is Considered Distracted Driving Under the New Law?
A motorist caught using a cellphone may be considered distracted under the new law. Texting is no longer the only form of distracted driving that comes with a fine. There are three exclusions to this:
- Utilizing the speakerphone
- Using an integrated in-car Bluetooth system, allowing the use of voice commands
- Pulling over outside the lane of travel to safely pick up the phone
All drivers have a responsibility to minimize the risk of motor vehicle accidents. Not using a cellphone behind the wheel is one way Ohioans can do their part to avoid putting their lives and the lives of others at risk.