Phones Down Law in Ohio
I spoke with Sgt. Kumor, of the Ashland Post of the Ohio Highway Patrol, about the new distracted driving law, that took effect on April 4, 2023, making it illegal to use or hold a cell phone or electronic device in your hand, lap, or other parts of the body, while driving on Ohio roads.
According to Sgt. Kumor, even though the law took effect on April 4, 2023, there will be a six-month grace period where Troopers and Officers will issue warnings for six months in an attempt to educate drivers on the new law. After October 5th of 2023 Troopers and Officers will be issuing citations.
Sgt Kumor explains, this law will be enforced with very few exceptions, like swiping your phone once to answer it. Anything that involves using, holding, or supporting a device while driving is now illegal. This could include dialing a phone number, updating, or browsing social media, playing games, texting, video calls or FaceTime, or watching videos. Drivers can listen to audio streaming apps and use navigational equipment if they turn them on before getting on the road, or use a single touch or swipe to activate, modify, or deactivate them.”
If a Troopers or an Officers sees a violation, they can and will pull you over.
Looking at your cell phone while stopped at a light can potentially endanger your family, friends, and neighbors. Drivers have a responsibility to watch for people crossing the street or other drivers and bicyclists who haven’t yet cleared the intersection.
Keep in mind — EVEN IF you can, That doesn’t mean you should.
The 1st offense gets two points assessed to an individual’s license, and up to a $150 fine. Fines are doubled if the violation occurs in a work zone. Completion of a distracted driving course can help avoid the fine and points.
The 2nd offense gets three points assessed to an individual’s license, and up to a $250 fine. Fines are doubled if the violation occurs in a work zone.
3 or more offenses, gets four points assessed to an individual’s license, up to a $500 fine, and a possible 90-day suspension of driver license. Fines are doubled if the violation occurs in a work zone.
There are exceptions that include:
Drivers reporting an emergency to law enforcement, a hospital, health care provider, fire department, or similar emergency entity.
Drivers holding a phone to their ear only during phone conversations if the call is started or stopped with a single touch or swipe.
Drivers holding or using cell phones and other electronic devices while stopped at a traffic light or parked on a road or highway during an emergency or road closure.
First responders (law enforcement, fire, EMS) using electronic devices as part of their official duties.
Utility workers operating utility vehicles in certain emergency or outage situations.
Licensed operators using an amateur radio.
Commercial truck drivers using a mobile data terminal.
Remember, drivers under the age of 18 are still restricted from using their electronic devices in any way, including hands-free features.
From 2018 through 2022, there were 60,421 crashes in Ohio that involved one or more drivers who were distracted by something within their vehicle. Of these, 189 were fatal crashes that resulted in 207 deaths.
Over the past five years (2018-2022), Cuyahoga County has led the state in the number of distracted driving crashes (5,651), followed by Franklin (5,073), Hamilton (4,682), Montgomery (2,977), and Lucas (2,603).
Combined, these five counties accounted for more than one in three distracted driving crashes (35%) in Ohio.
Male drivers made up the majority of the distracted drivers in these crashes (56% vs. 43%). In fatal crashes, males made up 68% of the distracted drivers. Nearly one in three distracted drivers (32%) were 15-24 years old.
From 2018 through 2022, OSHP troopers issued 39,533 citations that included a charge of distracted driving.
On April 4, 2023, Ohio’s distracted driving laws have become more strict. Law enforcement officers will now have probable cause to pull over motorists if they witness them illegally using a cell phone or other electronic device.
While emergency calls will be permitted in all circumstances, the use of an electronic device to call, text, search, hold, or support while driving will generally not be allowed. There is a six-month grace period where officers will attempt to educate drivers on the new law. Officers will have the authority to issue citations in October 2023.
Additional distracted driving enforcement and educational information can be found on the Patrol’s Ohio Statistics and Analytics for Traffic Safety (OSTATS) distracted driving dashboard at:
Additional crash-related data can be found at:
For more information, visit: PhonesDown.Ohio.gov.