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Understanding Ohio’s new distracted driving law

by | Oct 4, 2023 | Motor Vehicle Accidents

Distracted driving is an increasingly concerning issue on Ohio roads. In fact, the Ohio State Highway Patrol reports that at least 60,000 accidents and 200 deaths occurred between 2018 and 2022 due to distracted drivers.

To address this problem, the state legislature introduced a new distracted driving bill that Governor DeWine signed into law at the beginning of 2023.

Key details of SB 288

Senate Bill 288 took effect on April 4th, 2023. SB 288 aims to strengthen the existing “Driving while Texting” law in Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.204. Unlike the previous legislation, SB 288 makes distracted driving a primary offense that applies to all drivers, not just juveniles. As a result, law enforcement officers now have the authority to initiate traffic stops whenever they observe any driver violating the law.

SB 288 focuses on addressing the use of cellular phones and electronic devices while driving, including the mere act of holding such devices. The law prohibits common distractions such as texting, checking social media or streaming videos.

Exemptions under the new law

SB 288 provides specific circumstances in which drivers can still use cell phones or electronic devices while driving. For example, drivers can use their devices to contact law enforcement, hospitals, fire departments or other first responders in the event of an emergency.

Also, the law does not apply to drivers operating public safety vehicles. Commercial truck drivers may use mobile data terminals for work purposes, and any driver may use mobile devices while in a stationary position outside of a lane of travel.

The law also allows drivers to use devices in a hands-free mode as long as they do not hold the device. A single touch or swipe is permissible if the driver is not manually entering data.

Education, enforcement and potential penalties

SB 288 allowed for a six-month interim where officers would issue written warnings to drivers in violation of the new statute. With the end of that grace period, drivers can expect to receive tickets, citations and summonses for distracted driving.

Law enforcement may assess up to $150 in fines and two points on a driver’s license for an infraction. However, a driver may be able to reduce the penalty by taking a driving safety course. Repeat offenders can expect stiffer penalties.

Officials expect that these measures will encourage motorists to be even more careful on the roads. By comprehending SB 288’s provisions, drivers can contribute to a safer driving environment and avoid potential legal consequences.


Nathan J. Stuckey