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Ohio's new distracted driving law is now in effect

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine talks about new distracted driving law in Delaware county on October 5, 2023
Ohio Channel
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine talks about new distracted driving law in Delaware county on October 5, 2023

Ohioans who text and drive can now be fined for doing that. The grace period for enforcing the new law passed back in the spring is over. Now, drivers will face penalties if they are caught.

Gov. Mike DeWine said motorists caught holding their phones can now be issued tickets and face points on their licenses.

“The goal is not to issue tickets. The goal is to save lives,” DeWine said.

For the past six months, officers could pull drivers over and issue a warning if they noticed another problem. But starting today, texting while driving becomes a primary offense.

“If law enforcement sees a driver distracted by their phone, that driver can now be immediately pulled over. Peace officers, police officers and troopers no longer must wait until that individual committed a separate offense to be able to pull them over,” DeWine said.

DeWine said he hopes this law will make Ohioans think twice about texting and driving. And he said there’s some evidence that might already be happening because distracted driving crashes have already decreased in the months since the law was passed and now, when the law goes into effect.

Drivers who are under 18 years old cannot use a phone at all while driving, not even if they are hands-free phones. For other drivers, there are some exceptions.

Exceptions (for everyone 18 and older)

  • You can hold your phone if you are stopped at the red light or parked
  • You can use the GPS features on your phone
  • You can still hold your phone to your ear while talking but you must be able to start and end the call with a single swipe.
  • You can use your phone to report an emergency to police, fire or medical providers.
  • Workers in some professions will still be able to use some features on their phones

Fines and penalties

The fines and penalties for violating the law can be significant. Drivers can get two points on their driver's license and a fine of up to $150 on the first offense. The second time, that fine increases to $250 and three points on their license. All subsequent offenses are four points each. Those repeat offenders could be fined up to $500 and a possible 90-day license suspension.

Fines can be doubled in work zones. Flagrant offenders who accrue 12 or more points in two years could face a six month license suspension. And those drivers would have to complete a remedial driving class, retake their license exam and show proof of insurance to get their license reinstated.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.