COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The rules of the road are about to change. On Tuesday, Ohio’s distracted driving law officially takes effect.
This allows law enforcement to pull over drivers on their phones without incident. It also makes distracted driving a primary offense with up to a $500 fine.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol said they have seen nearly 62,000 distracted driving crashes in the state since 2018. They say 1,800 of those were fatal or with a serious injury.
“That just kind of brings into perspective how big of an issue it is for us,” said Sgt. Tyler Ross with the Ohio State Highway Patrol Public Affairs unit. The law includes texting, scrolling, basically any physical manipulation of your phone while driving.
Ohio State Highway Patrol hopes having this law will educate people about how dangerous something seemingly simple can be. “Everybody goes. ‘Oh, I’ve been texting for however long, I got it, it’s not going to be me.’ But the average time it takes to send a text is four seconds and traveling at over 55 miles an hour you travel over a football field,” Ross said.
OSHP said the goal is to save lives. “It’s the same it always was and that’s to save lives. On a first offense it’s up to a $150 fine and two points,” Ross said.
The Highway Patrol said on the first offense drivers will have the option to take an educational course to remove those points. But on your second and third offense that option goes away, and the fines go up.
For the second offense, the fine could be up to $250, and for the third offense, the fine could go up to $500. Some Ohioans say they did not know the law would come into play so soon.
“I just learned about this today so that will make me on my guard more,” said Kayla Zatezalo. But Zatezalo said she is happy about it. “Everybody knows you shouldn’t text and drive or talk on your phone. But, I mean, we’ve all definitely done that when we are running late,” Zatezalo said.
The highway patrol says there is a six-month grace period. They said during that grace period they will still be pulling people over and giving citations – with the hopes of educating the public about the dangers.
“That’s why we are going to continue to take the time to do those six months to stop vehicles and educate the public and put that awareness out and continue to do whether it is PSA’s or interviews. Basically, continue to push this because we want everybody to be aware of it,” Ross said.
The law goes into effect on April 4, but there will be a six-month grace period for drivers to educate themselves about the new law. This means the law will be officially in place on October 5.
There are some exemptions to the law like when you are stopped at a red light or calling emergency personnel. Read the full law to see what other exemptions are included.