The development of technology has meant to make our lives easier, but in many ways, it has made them more dangerous! Cases of distracted driving due to new technology, especially cell phones, have continued to make up about 80% of car accidents for the past several years.

In this article, we are going to dive deeper into the laws surrounding distracted driving and how you can avoid being penalized. The state of Ohio’s laws have changed in order to best tackle distracted driving and keep drivers safe.

What is distracted driving?

Distracted driving in Ohio is defined as “any non-driving activity a person may engage in that has the potential to distract him or her from from the primary task of driving, thus increasing the the risk of a crash.” While this can include any activity other than driving, it’s most commonly known as texting while driving. Using a handheld electronic wireless communications device, also known as your cell phone, is one of the main causes of distracted driving. Eating, drinking, and putting on makeup while driving are also contributors to distracted driving because your full attention is not on the road.

Anything that takes your eyes away from the road inside your car is considered dangerous while driving. This includes passengers’ media and the distractions children might cause when in motion. Just reaching for something in your back seat heightens your chance of accident 8.8 times!

Ohio’s Distracted Driving Law

Section 4511.204 of the Ohio Revised Code states that “No person shall drive a motor vehicle, trackless trolley, or streetcar on any street, highway, or property open to the public for vehicular traffic while using a handheld electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication”. This may seem to be a blanket statement but there are a few exceptions to this rule.

Under what circumstances CAN you use your phone?

In this same law listed above, you can find that these rules do not apply to all circumstances. You can use your cell phone when calling about an emergency, which includes your emergency contact, the hospital, or law enforcement.

You may use your phone when you are pulled over on the side of the road and out of the lane of traffic. Officers and other drivers who use technology as part of their job are also allowed to use their handheld/ devices while driving. Other reasons include using your phone as GPs or for navigation purposes.

If you are concerned about the details of this law, you can find more information here.

Distracted Driving Statistics

Over the past decade, we as a society have gotten more and more attached to our phones, creating the need for new distracted driving laws to be put in place. Over 10,000 accidents are caused by texting while driving in Ohio alone. Among these accidents, over 40 people die each year. It is the 5th highest cause of accidents related to driver error.

Drivers between the ages of 16-20 tend to have the highest accidents in relation to distracted driving. Amongst those, men are more likely to be distracted than women.

Is Distracted Driving a Primary Offense In Ohio?

The answer is yes and no. For drivers under the age of 18, the current distracted driving laws state that it is a primary offense and it is illegal to text and drive. This age group is the only group that can be pulled over for only a texting violation. f you are under 18 and it is your first violation, you’ll likely be fined $150 and can have your license suspended for up to 60 days. If it’s your second offense, and you’re caught texting while driving again, it is a $300 fine and a 1-year suspension.

For drivers who are over the age of 18, texting and driving is only a secondary offense. This means that you have to be pulled over for another offense such as running a stop sign or stop light. If you are found texting and driving while committing another traffic offense you’re likely to get fined $150.

How Do Police Prove Distracted Driving?

One of the biggest ways a law enforcement officer can prove that you were distracted driving is because they can see you holding your cell phone in your hand. It’s very easy to spot someone with their head down in the driver’s seat looking at their cell phone no matter inconspicuous you might think you are being!

The best way to combat this if you MUST use your phone is to use a “hands free” method instead. This would include hands free phone calls, GPS, and music, in order to limit your distractions. Most new cars these days have Bluetooth to help aid in safe driving.

What is the Penalty For Distracted Driving In Ohio?

As mentioned above, the penalties vary depending on the age group of the offender. Drivers under the age of 18 can be pulled over for only a texting violation. First violations likely result in a fine of $150 and your license being suspended for 60 days. Second offenders who are found texting while driving again will be fined $300 and face a 1-year suspension.

For drivers who are over the age of 18, texting and driving is only a secondary offense. This means that you have to be pulled over for another offense such as running a stop sign or stop light. If you are found texting and driving while committing another traffic offense you’re likely to get fined $150.

How Much Is a Distracted Driving Ticket In Ohio?

In Ohio, penalties for a distracted driving ticket depend on the age of the offender. Additionally, a new Ohio law that went into affect in 2018 tacks on an additional $100 fine for distracted driving if you’re also committing another moving violation, such as speeding. Below are the standard fines for a distracted driving ticket:

  • First Offenders over 18: A fine up to $150
  • First Offenders under 18: A fine of up to $150 and a 60-day license suspension
  • Second Offenders under 18: A fine of up to $300 and a potential 1-year license suspension.

Frequently Asked Questions About Distracted Driving

Is texting while driving really that dangerous?

Yes. In fact, using a cell phone while driving is 6 times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving! It is found that people think they are better at multitasking, but their attention is cut in half when they are looking at their phones.

How likely are you going to get in an accident while texting and driving?

As soon as you take your eyes off the road, you are 400% more likely to get in an accident. Did you know that when you look at your phone for 5 seconds, you can drive the length of a football field? That equals 360 feet that pass while you were not watching the road!

How many people are injured in distracted driving-related accidents?

Out of the 1.6 million accidents in the U.S. that are caused by distracted driving, about 390,000 of those result in injuries to those involved. 400 of those injuries result in death, according to a study done by the CDC.

Who is more likely to drive distracted? Teens or Adults?

As we likely do not get the entire story when an accident happens, from what we know, 1 in 3 teen-related car crashes is due to the use of cell phones while driving. It is not likely someone will want to admit they were texting while driving once they report an incident. The general public is aware of the consequences of their actions but continues to get behind the wheel and get distracted.

How can I help prevent an accident?

Using defensive driving techniques is your best chance to prevent an accident. Aside from not letting yourself get distracted, there are a few other ways you can remain safe.

  1. Plan your route ahead of time – know where you’re going and how you’re getting there
  2. Keep an eye on your surroundings – make sure you are checking all of your mirrors and blind spots
  3. Give yourself space to brake
  4. Don’t get emotional or have “road rage”

Is it illegal to text at a red light in Ohio?

Yes! If you are in Ohio, in the lane of traffic, and you are under the age of 18, you can be pulled over for simply using a handheld device at a red light or stop sign. Your car must be completely parked and out of the way of traffic.

Does texting while driving charge increase insurance rates?

As if there weren’t enough reasons not to text and drive, your insurance may be affected by your decisions too! Many insurance companies will not know about your texting while driving habits until you have an accident. The amount that your insurance premium will go up varies on your overall standing with the company and driving record.

Some companies offer discounts for safe driving. Different companies have different methods of tracking your good behaviors by methods such as installing a camera into the car, using an app to track your journey, or using an app that blocks notifications from your phone.

What to do if you are in an accident with a distracted driver:

If you are in an accident with someone who you witnessed talking on the phone or texting while driving, it is important to make sure that is documented. After calling 911 and having gotten the medical attention needed, let the police officer on the scene know what you witnessed. This information is valuable to the police report. If you haven’t done so already, exchange information with the other person involved in the accident, and get their license plate number, address, name, and registration. If necessary, you may need an attorney’s help to help further prove this incident was related to distracted driving.

How can you keep yourself safe?

Now that you know the law and the devastating results of texting and driving, you can now be a safer driver! Keep your eyes on the road, watch out for distracted drivers, and use defensive driving techniques to keep yourself safe!

Too Many Points on Your License? Have to take a Remedial Course? Want to keep your License?

Enroll in our Online Remedial Driving Course Now!

Too Many Points on Your License? Have to take a Remedial Course? Want to keep your License?

Enroll in our Online Remedial Driving Course Now!