In an attempt to combat the substantial increase in distracted driving-related automobile collisions over the course of the past five years, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has signed into legislation Senate Bill 288–a law that will make distracted driving a primary offense with violations punishable by fines of up to $500.
Prior to the enactment of the law, distracted driving was only a secondary offense for adults. (Distracted driving was, however, a primary offense for juvenile drivers). Drivers could only previously be cited for distracted driving if a law enforcement officer had pulled them over for violating a separate primary traffic violation such as running a red light.
The enactment of this legislation is crucial as the State of Ohio has experienced an overall increase in traffic fatalities since 2013. State Highway Patrol estimates distracted driving, in particular, is responsible for approximately 74,000 automobile collisions in Ohio since 2017–roughly 2,100 of which resulted in death or serious injury.
Aimed at improving the safety of Ohio drivers and pedestrians, Senate Bill 288 will substantially strengthen Ohio laws governing the use of cell phones and other handheld electronic communication devices while operating a motor vehicle. The law, essentially, bans both holding and using such devices while driving although certain exceptions apply. Such exceptions include using/holding a phone if a driver is stopped at a red light or if his/her car is parked. The law also permits drivers to swipe their phones to answer a call, hold a phone to their ear while talking, and make emergency calls in any circumstance.
Senate Bill 288 will allow law enforcement officers to immediately pull over a driver seen violating this law. For the first six (6) months after it is enacted, however, Ohio drivers will only be issued a warning. After this six-month period of time, drivers can be issued a citation. The penalty for a driver’s first distracted driving offense will include a fine of $150 as well as two points on his or her driver’s license. In lieu of paying a fine and points on his or her license, a driver may instead opt to complete a distracted driving safety course. If a driver receives a second citation within two years, he or she will receive an additional $250 fine. A third offense will result in a $500 fine.
Ohio will become the 25th state to ban hand-held phone conversations while driving. Promisingly, states that have previously enacted distracted driving legislation have experienced a significant decrease in traffic fatalities.
At Obral, Silk & Pal Personal Injury Lawyers, we have witnessed first-hand just how devastating the repercussions of distracted driving can be. Having represented hundreds of clients injured in distracted driving-related car accidents, we encourage our fellow Ohioans not to use their cell phones while driving and to help keep our roadways safe.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a distracted driving-related car accident, Obral, Silk & Pal can help you navigate the personal injury process and obtain the compensation to which you are entitled. Injuries change lives…so do we.