Ohio Distracted Driver law effective April 4

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OHIO—Under the new Ohio Distracted Driver law, using cellphones and other electronic devices while driving will become a primary offense for all drivers, meaning police officers can stop any motorist if they see them using a device while driving and cite them.

However, officers can’t search an electronic device for evidence of recent use unless they have a warrant, or the driver allows them to do so.

The new law goes into effect in stages. Starting on April 4, 2023, police may begin stopping motorists, but only to issue warnings. That grace period will last six months, after which police can begin citing motorists for violations.

What if I need to make an emergency call or use a navigation app while driving?

The law includes some exceptions for:

*Making an emergency call to the Police Department, Fire Department, or Hospital.

*Using a phone while stopped on the side of the road, at a red light, or because of an emergency or road closure.

*Holding a phone near an ear for a call.

*Using speakerphone.

*Using navigation services as long as the driver is not typing in a destination or holding the phone.

*Using a single touch or swipe to end a call.

*Police, other first responders, and utility workers are exempt.

*Two-way radios used by the Amateur Radio Service, AKA “ham radio.”

Penalties for violators under the new law will include:

* A fine of up to $150 and two points on the driver’s license for the first offense. Fines and points can be avoided for a first offense by taking an approved distracted driving course.

* A fine of up to $250 and three points on the license for a second offense within two years.

* A fine of up to $500, four points on the license, and a 90-day license suspension for a third offense within two years.