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Police will start issuing tickets under Ohio's new distracted driving law this week

A man uses a smartphone while driving in the car.
Adobe Stock

You may want to think twice about reaching for that text when you're behind the wheel.

Starting Thursday, drivers could get a ticket under Ohio's new distracted driving law. The law went into effect six months ago, but police have only been issuing warnings during the law's grace period.

Under the law, it is illegal to hold a cell phone or electronic device while driving on Ohio roads.

Drivers over 18 can still use hands-free devices to make calls. The new law also has some exceptions, like calling emergency personnel and sending a message while stopped at a traffic light.

Related: Enforcing distracted driving law in Ohio won't be a problem, law enforcement says

Fines range from up to $150 and two points on your license for the first offense ... to up to $500, four points on your license, and a 90-day driver's license suspension for a third offense in two years. Fines are doubled in work zones.

In the city of Columbus, it’s been illegal to send or receive a text message while driving since 2010. The offense is an enforceable minor misdemeanor, which can carry a fine of $150.

Other police agencies have also been enforcing distracted driving for years, just as a secondary offense. Police could not stop someone just for texting, but they could add a citation for texting when stopping a driver for breaking another law.

Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.