Ohio Governor Mike DeWine last week signed Senate Bill 288, which significantly strengthens laws in Ohio related to the use of cell phones and other electronic devices while driving. The bill, which was initially part of House Bill 283 sponsored by representatives Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) and Brian Lampton (R-Beavercreek), contains several safety measures championed by Governor DeWine, including a wide ban on using and holding a phone while driving.
“Signing this bill today is a great honor because this legislation will, without a doubt, prevent crashes and save lives,” said Governor DeWine. “Right now, too many people are willing to risk their lives while behind the wheel to get a look at their phones. My hope is that this legislation will prompt a cultural shift around distracted driving that normalizes the fact that distracted driving is dangerous, irresponsible, and just as deadly as driving drunk.”
What is in the new law?
Under the new law, a driver may still use their device in specific circumstances, such as when their vehicle is parked or stopped at a red light. Drivers are also permitted to swipe their phones to answer a call and to hold their phones to their ears during phone conversations. Emergency calls are also permitted in all circumstances. In general, motorists are no longer permitted to hold their device while operating a motor vehicle.
Law enforcement will issue warnings to drivers found violating the law for the first six months following the effective date. After this six-month grace period, law enforcement will have the authority to issue citations. Penalties include a fine of up to $150 for a driver’s first offense and two points on their license unless a distracted driving safety course is completed. Increased penalties can occur if the driver is a repeat offender.
“Certainly not all fatal traffic crashes are caused by distracted driving, but it’s no coincidence that evolving smartphone technology has coincided with increasing roadway deaths and injuries,” added Governor DeWine. “Other states with similar distracted driving laws have experienced fewer fatal crashes, and we expect that this enhanced distracted driving law will have the same impact here.”
According to the state, distracted driving is known to be underreported, the Ohio State Highway Patrol reports that there have been at least 73,945 distracted driving crashes in Ohio since 2017, including 2,186 fatal and serious injury crashes. Traffic fatalities overall have increased in eight of nine years from 2013 to 2021, with deaths reaching their highest point in nearly two decades in 2021 with 1,355 fatalities. Preliminary traffic data from 2022 indicates that at least 1,269 people were killed in traffic crashes last year.