According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, since 2018, distracted driving has led to over 63,000 crashes, over 1,800 fatal or serious injuries, and over 40,000 violations,[1] 39% of distracted driving crashes involve an at-fault driver between the ages of 15 and 24.[2] Previously, drivers over the age of 17 had to commit another traffic violation in addition to texting while driving to be pulled over. The Ohio legislature passed a new law seeking make distracted driving laws stricter.

In Ohio, it is now illegal to use or hold, with any part your body, a cell phone or other electronic device while driving. Ohio’s SB 288 allows police officers to pull over drivers for violating the new law. But the law also has some exceptions and different requirements depending on the age of the driver. Law enforcement will be issuing citations under the new law beginning on October 05, 2023.

Drivers over the age of 18 are allowed to make and receive calls so long as they can do so hands-free via some other means like using speakerphone, connecting the phone to the car with Bluetooth, or using an earpiece.

The new law, with some exceptions, prohibits any use of one’s phone that requires them to hold and interact with the phone. For instance, and among others, dialing a phone number, sending a text message, and browsing the internet are all prohibited regardless of the driver’s age.

The law also lists some narrow circumstances under which the broad prohibition is lifted. For example, phones can be used if the driver is reporting an emergency to law enforcement or another, similar entity. Drivers can also make and receive calls by holding the phone to their ear so long as the call can be answered using a single swipe. And drivers can use or hold their phones while stopped at a traffic light or parked on the side of the road during an emergency. Absent any of these exceptions, drivers who violate the law are subject to penalties.

In the first offense over the course of two years, the violator will have two points assessed to their license and they will be subject to a fine of up to $150. The second offense in two years results in three points and up to a $250 fine.  For three or more offenses in two years, the violator receives four points, up to $500 in fines, and a possible 90-day suspension of their license. Each of these fines double if the violation occurred in a work zone.


[2] Id.