LEBANON, Ohio (WDTN) — It has been over a month since Ohio’s new distracted driving law went into effect, and troopers with the state highway patrol are still seeing people on their phones behind the wheel.
OSHP is trying to get the word out about the new law which went into effect in April 2023. 2 News rode along with Sgt. Tyler Ross with the OSHP Public Affairs Unit. He caught one woman texting and issued her a warning.
“People think that they can text and drive. And unfortunately, it’s resulting in people’s lives, it’s not just a fine or a fee,” Sgt. Ross explained.
The woman was one of several people seen on their phones. Sgt. Ross said people may think they can get away with texting or scrolling on social media, but troopers can always tell when someone is on their phone.
“We get a lot of people call in to our #677 impaired driver line and they’ll say ‘I’m behind an impaired motorist or what I think to be reckless operator,’ then we’ll stop them and most of the time, they’re texting because they have those same indicators, they’re weaving or they’re having trouble staying in their lane of travel. So those are things that we look for behind vehicles, we see them weave, we see them leave their lane of travel,” Sgt. Ross said.
So what CAN’T you do under this new law? You cannot text or dial a phone number. Browsing the internet or scrolling through social media is also off limits. You cannot watch videos, play games, or FaceTime a friend. You also cannot use any part of your body to hold your phone while using speaker phone.
“If it’s on any part of your body, it’s a potential, an opportunity for a distraction. So unless it’s all the way up to here, that’s the only time any part of your body can be touching it,” Sgt. Ross said.
You CAN hold your phone up to your ear to talk, but using Bluetooth or hands-free devices is best. You can also make phone calls for emergencies, and you can use your phones at traffic lights.
If you are caught using your phone while driving, you can face fines and penalties on your license. The first offense is two points on your license and up to a $150 fine. The second offense is three points on your license and up to a $250 fine, and the third offense is four points on your license and up to a $500 fine.
Since 2018, there have been more than 63,000 crashes involving distracted driving in Ohio. Of those crashes, more than 1,800 were fatal or caused serious injuries. Sgt. Ross hopes this new law will help people realize just how dangerous being on your phone while driving really is.
“It’s just another tool in our tool belt that’s going to allow us to make our roadways safer. Our goal is the same that it always has been and always will continue to be, and that is save lives. So that’s our goal,” Sgt. Ross said.
Ohioans are currently under a grace period, but law enforcement officers are still issuing warnings. Starting October 5, 2023, they can begin issuing citations.