In Ohio distracted driving is usually a secondary offense, which means that drivers must commit another traffic violation before they can get penalized for being distracted behind the wheel. However, distracted driving facts reveal that distractions can be unsafe for drivers regardless of whether or not they are committing other violations. For instance, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) stated that 42 percent of high school students admitted to sending a text or email while driving in 2015.

Driving distractions may not always be easily identifiable, so drivers need to be aware of them even if they are legal in the state. The following sections detail the dangers of inattentive driving and how drivers may combat this driving habit to stay safe on the roads.

What is distracted driving in Ohio?

Distracted driving in OH is defined as any activity drivers do that may divert their attention from driving. Thus, all driving distractions increase drivers’ odds of getting involved in a car crash. Some dangerous distractions that drivers may succumb to are as follows:

  • Texting and driving
  • Talking to passengers, pedestrians or other drivers
  • Eating
  • Adjusting the radio or air controls

Distracted driving laws address the three main groups of distractions, including visual, manual and cognitive distractions. Because the CDC’s distracted driving facts reveal that texting is one of the most dangerous distractions drivers face, most legislation in Ohio focuses on texting behind the wheel. However, drivers must remember that various driving distractions exist that may pose similar dangers to drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

In truth, facts about distracted driving in OH have indicated that passengers, food and music were among the biggest distractors reported by drivers, making up more than half of all distracted drivers and 49 percent of all fatal crashes resulting from distractions in 2017.

Distracted Driving Laws in Ohio for Handheld Devices

Under the distracted driving laws Ohio prohibits the use of handheld electronic devices for text communication. Any drivers who caused or were involved in distracted driving accidents will be penalized based on the level of distraction and accident. Handheld devices include wireless phones, text-messaging devices, personal digital assistants, a laptop computer, a computer tablet or iPad and any other wireless devices that are meant for text communication.

However, voice-operated and hands-free devices may be used while driving. Additionally, devices that are features of the vehicle may be used. A list of all permitted interactions with these devices, as outlined in the OH distracted driving law, is provided below:

  • Contacting emergency services
  • Using the device in accordance with professional duties
  • Communicating via text while the vehicle is stopped and out of traffic
  • Reading, entering or selecting phone numbers to make or receive a call
  • Receiving messages on devices used for navigation
  • Sending or receiving messages via radio waves
  • Pushing buttons on the device unrelated to text messages

Texting and Driving Laws in Ohio

In Ohio texting while driving is not only dangerous but also illegal. Each year, texting and driving accidents are to blame for thousands of deaths nationwide. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 14 percent of the total 3,196 crashes in the U.S. in 2015 were caused by cellphone use. Texting and driving laws in OH restrict drivers from using handheld devices to text while their vehicles are in motion and in the flow of traffic, but drivers should be aware that using hands-free technology does not eliminate the dangers of texting.

Ohio Laws on Distracted Driving for Novice Drivers

Drivers younger than 18 years of age (i.e., novice drivers) are especially vulnerable to driving distractions and may not have the experience necessary to combat the temptation of their phones. Therefore, OH distracted driving laws dictate that novice drivers, especially those with learner’s permits, must refrain from all cell phone use while driving to aid in the prevention of accidents and near-crash events. This includes talking on their phones. Additionally, the hands-free technology exception does not apply to novice drivers.

Ohio Distracted Driving Regulations for CDL Holders

Those with commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) are subject to the same laws against distracted driving that pertain to other drivers in the state. Consequently, a distracted driving ticket for texting may be issued to commercial drivers if they are suspected of committing another traffic violation. However, unlike most other drivers, commercial drivers may not use a handheld device to make voice calls. Only hands-free devices satisfy OH driving laws for CDL holders.

Distracted Driving Penalties in Ohio

To stop distracted driving in OH, police enforce fines,

However, while distracted driving regulations remain similar throughout the state, penalties may vary. In Dublin, OH, distracted drivers are cited with a fourth-degree misdemeanor and receive 2 points on their driving records. Drivers may have to pay fines up to $250 and spend a maximum of 30 days in jail. Additionally, distracted driving is a primary offense in Dublin, which means police officers can stop inattentive drivers even if the drivers have not broken any other laws.

Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving in Ohio

Distracted driving consequences can be harmful, even deadly, so drivers should prevent inattentive driving as much as possible. To learn how to avoid distracted driving accidents and problems, drivers may refer to this short list of ways to prevent them in OH:

  1. Get items ready for your drive. Place your purse, wallet, sunglasses and other items you may need to access while you drive within reach and set the radio and other settings before you begin your drive.
  2. Limit your use of hands-free devices. While legal in OH, they may still distract you from driving.
  3. Turn off your devices if necessary. Commit to no texting and driving for the duration of your commute to eliminate cell phone distraction and its consequences.
Last updated on Friday, September 21 2018.

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