Ohio has passed a new distracted driving law that limits how we use our cell phones and other electronic devices in the car. The new law went into effect on April 4, 2023. The law makes it illegal to hold your phone in your hand, place your phone in your lap, or prop your phone on any other part of your body while the car is in operation. Though the law is in place now, officers will only be issuing warnings until October 5, 2023. After October 5, the police will writing tickets for violations they see.
OHIO'S 2023 DISTRACTED DRIVING LAW
CAN I STILL USE BLUETOOTH OR HANDSFREE CALLING?
“Hands-Free” Technology is permitted to make and receive calls and to use other apps. The general rule is that if you need to hold your device or need to be physically touching it to engage with an app, then you should pull over. Integrated systems within your vehicle, like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto are allowed to be used under the new law. (ORC 4511.204)
The Ohio Department of Transportation has a list of what is not allowed under the new distracted driving law. The list includes:
- Dialing a phone number
- Sending a text message
- Browsing social media
- Video calls
- Browsing the internet
- Watching videos on YouTube or similar sites
- Playing games
- Recording videos
CAN I USE GOOGLE MAPS OR APPLE MAPS?
Ohio’s distracted driving statute has some exceptions that allow you to use your phone that won’t violate the statute. Using navigational apps, like Google Maps or Apple Maps, are allowed under the statute. But the statute says a driver “can only use a single touch or swipe to activate, modify or deactivate” the app.
ANSWERING CALLS IS ALLOWED BUT NO DIALING IS PERMITTED
Another exception to the distracted driving law is that a driver may hold his or her phone to their ear when answering or making a call. BUT the call must be answered or initiated with a single touch or swipe. You are not allowed to dial while the car in in motion.
Other exceptions to the statute include:
- Drivers may hold or use cell phones and other electronic devices while stopped at a traffic light
- Calling to report an emergency
- First responders may use electronic devices as part of their official duties
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR VIOLATING THE DISTRACTED DRIVING LAWS?
- First offense in two years: 2 points assessed to your license, $150 fine
- Second offense in two years: 3 points assessed to your license, $250 fine
- Third offense in two years: 4 points assessed to your license, $500 fine, possible 90-day license suspension
- Fines can be doubled if the violation occurred in a construction zone.
For a driver’s first offense, if the driver completes a defensive driving course and shows proof of completion to the court, the fines and points are waived.
CAN AN OFFICER CONFISCATE MY PHONE AFTER STOPPING ME FOR DISTRACTED DRIVING?
The distracted driving law states that an officer must observe you using or physically holding your phone before the officer can pull you over. The officer cannot have access to the device without a warrant and may not confiscate the device while waiting for a warrant. In order for an officer to have access to your phone or device without a warrant, you have to give voluntary consent to the officer to have access to your device. (ORC 4511.204)
The new Ohio distracted driving law creates many more opportunities for officers to write tickets. As with any new law, there will be learning curve for officers and drivers. If you were given a ticket for distracted driving and have questions, talk to our Ohio distracted driving defense attorneys at 614-361-2804.