Governor DeWine signs new bill into law, making distracted driving a primary offense

Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 6:08 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Governor Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 288 into law Tuesday morning which now makes distracted driving a primary offense. This means law enforcement can pull you over just for being on your phone.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Spokesperson Lt. Nathan Dennis says before this law, officers could only cite someone for distracted driving if the driver violated another traffic law. Now you can be driving the speed limit and staying in your lane and still get pulled over if there is a phone in your hand.

“Any time a phone is in your hand and you are inputting information into it or you’re watching a video on it or anything like that, that is what this law is saying is probable cause to stop a vehicle for distracted driving,” says Lt. Dennis.

Talking on the phone and using your GPS app is still legal, but Lt. Dennis says this law could change some habits.

“If you’re going to be making a phone call you have to have the phone up to your ear or you have to be completely hands-free on speaker phone,” says Lt. Dennis. “But you cannot be actively inputting information into your phone at all.”

If you’re using a GPS app, you must put the address in and press “go” before you shift the car into drive. Plus you can’t have the phone in your hand. It has to be in a cupholder or fastened to a mount.

Lt. Dennis says Senate Bill 288 goes into effect in 90 days.

“We’re obviously going to be educating ourselves, ensuring that all troopers understand every aspect of this law. Then there will be a six month period where you may be stopped by a trooper or a law enforcement officer for a violation of distracted driving, but you will be issued a warning,” says the lieutenant.

Lt. Dennis says there were almost 10,000 distracted driving-related crashes in 2022, and the law could help decrease that number for 2023.

“It’s a shared responsibility of preventing fatal crashes. Not just the responsibility of law enforcement but the motorist too,” says Lt. Dennis. “Some of the things that cause fatal crashes that we as motorists can control is obviously not being distracted.”

Lt. Dennis says distracted driving does not have to just be cell phone use. Messing with the radio, eating, talking with passengers and more can also take drivers’ eyes and minds off the road.

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