Understanding Ohio’s New Distracted Driving Law

Distracted driving can have fatal consequences. Distracted drivers caused 10,266 crashes in Ohio, with seven fatal crashes and 45 causing serious injury. Senate Bill 288, effective in early April, makes using cell phones and other electronic communication devices a primary offense.

Let’s explore the bill, its restrictions, and how distracted driving might affect an insurance claim after a crash.

Defining Senate Bill 288

With SB 288 in effect, drivers will no longer be able to hold their cell phones or other electronic devices while they’re in motion. That means drivers cannot hold their phone in their hand, prop it on their lap, or have it anywhere else on their body.

With few exceptions, drivers can no longer interact with their phones if those actions require more than one swipe.

According to the Ohio Department of Transportation, the “Phones Down” law means drivers cannot:

  • Browse the Internet
  • Dial a phone number
  • Make video or FaceTime calls
  • Play Games
  • Record or stream video
  • Send a text message
  • Update or browse their social media
  • Watch Videos

These rules apply to drivers older than 18. Anyone younger than that is restricted from using their phones at all, even with hands-free features.

SB 288 makes distracted driving a primary offense, meaning law enforcement agents can pull you over without any other reason than suspected phone use.

Exceptions to the New Ohio Distracted Driving Law

Ohio drivers older than 18 are allowed to use their devices with hands-free capabilities, such as Bluetooth or other integrated systems. They’re simply banned from holding or supporting their phones and manually using the keys to use the device.

Other exceptions to SB 288 include:

  • Drivers reporting emergencies to emergency responders
  • Drivers holding a phone to their ear only during phone conversations, provided the call is started or stopped with a single touch or swipe
  • Drivers using handheld devices while stopped at a traffic light or parked on a road during a closure
  • First responders using electronic devices as part of their official duties
  • Utility workers operating their vehicles in emergency situations
  • Licensed operators using amateur radios
  • Commercial truck drivers operating their mobile data terminals

Drivers over 18 can use speakerphones, earpieces, wireless headsets, electronic watches, or connect their phones to their vehicle.

Are There Penalties for Distracted Driving in Ohio?

Enforcement of this law will begin in October 2023. Until then, law enforcement officials will issue warnings to educate drivers of possible violations so they can learn and adjust their driving habits.

Once enforcement is effective, there will be fines and points assigned to drivers’ licenses, depending on the number of offenses.

  • First Offense within two years: Two points assessed to driver’s license, and up to $150 fine
  • Second Offense within two years: Three points assessed to driver’s license, and up to $250 fine.
  • Third or more offense within two years: Four points assessed to license, up to $500 fine, and a 90-day license suspension

These fines double if the violations happen in a work zone. The first-time offense fine and points can be dropped if the violator completes a distracted driving course.

How Does A Distracted Driving Offense Affect Civil Claims?

In a personal injury case involving distracted drivers, the victim will need to prove the at-fault driver caused the crash because they were not paying attention. SB 288 supports this effort by establishing a “standard of care”: drivers should not be using their phones outside of any exceptions, and illegal use means they violated that care.

In a claim against a distracted driver in Ohio, you’re working to prove their negligence violated a standard of care and that negligence caused your injuries. If a driver was issued a citation for breaking the law under SB 288, that can strengthen your claim.

Should I Call an Ohio Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you’ve been in an accident with a distracted driver, you should call an experienced personal injury lawyer. They can investigate your case, help you collect evidence, and build a strong claim against the at-fault driver.

Law enforcement agents will only be providing warnings until October. That warning could be evidence in your case against an at-fault driver, even if there isn’t a penalty attached. Our seasoned car accident lawyers in Ohio will recognize when to search for warnings or tickets. They will understand what can help you recover the damages you deserve.

Need Help Understanding the New Law? Call Us Now

Kademenos, Wisehart, Hines, Dolyk & Wright Co. LPA is prepared to help you deal with the new distracted driving law in Ohio. We understand how traumatic car accidents can be, and we know distracted drivers can create upheaval in your life.

Negligent drivers must be held accountable, and we’re ready to help you pursue justice after a crash with a distracted driver. We’ve been helping the residents of Sandusky, Port Clinton, Mansfield, and Vermilion receive compensation for decades.

Call (419) 625-7770 or use our online form to contact us today!