WHITEHALL, Ohio (WCMH) – Ohio’s new distracted driving law is officially in effect. It makes doing things like texting, scrolling, and watching videos while driving a primary offense statewide, meaning drivers don’t have to break any other rules of the road to be pulled over.
“The most blatant ones I see are, I’ve pulled people over who are really just watching videos on their phone,” said Officer Gregor Zingarelli with the Whitehall Division of Police. “Definitely not safe for the public.”
NBC4 spent some time with him on Tuesday, the first day with the new law. He said that during a shift, he usually sees at least two to three drivers using their phones in ways they should not be while behind the wheel. In the hour our crew was with him, he saw at least five drivers breaking the new distracted driving law.
“We’re not out here to try to punish the public for something that we don’t perceive as putting the public at risk,” he said. “We just really want to keep the citizens of Whitehall and those who travel through it safer as a whole.”
Governor Mike DeWine has said the first six months with the new law will be a grace and educational period. Zingarelli told the two drivers he pulled over about it.
“Right now, we’re just trying to educate people, make sure they’re aware of the new law,” he said to one of the drivers. “The more we make people aware of that, the better they do.”
Both told him they were using their phones for directions. Holding the phone while doing that is not allowed, according to the law. Police said Whitehall has already had its own local ordinance about driving without full attention. Zingarelli hopes the state’s new law will make everyone more aware of all the rules related to distracted driving.
“We’re not out here just trying to punish people for the sake of punishing people, we want to try to advise people and give people the opportunity to fix their problems themselves,” he said.