In an effort to curb the number of distracted driving accidents in Ohio, state legislators have passed a bill that would toughen existing laws.
The bill would target not just texting and driving, as stipulated in O.R.C. 4511.204, it will allow officers to issue a citation for talking o the phone while driving. An offense would cost a violator $100. However, it would not apply to those who put the phone on speaker or use a hands-free device.
As our Cleveland car accident lawyers understand, the offense would not result in any points on one’s license. Still, the hope is that House Bill 95 would help deter a driving behavior that is both reckless and dangerous.
Ohio Distracted Driving Law
Ohio’s existing distracted driving law prohibits anyone from driving a motor vehicle, streetcar or trackless trolley on any street, highway or property open to the public for vehicular traffic while using a handheld electronic communication device (i.e., a smartphone) to send, read or write any kind of text-based communication.
It doesn’t apply to anyone using such a device for emergency purposes (i.e., to contact a health care provider, fire department or police) or to someone driving a public safety vehicle. It also isn’t applicable to someone using it for navigation purposes or to someone using it for navigation.
Ohio’s texting and driving law went into effect in 2013, allowing officers to pull anyone under 18 for suspected texting and driving. For those over 18, the law is considered a secondary offense, meaning officers can only stop an individual if they also notice some other infraction.
Those under 18 found to have violating the law will face a fine of up to $150 and a 6-month suspension for the first-time offense. A second offense will double the fine and license suspension time.
The new bill stipulates that the offense is a secondary one, meaning an officer can only cite someone for distracted driving if he or she witnesses the offense during another moving violation. Those who voted against House Bill 95 say it represents a government overreach.
Distracted Drivers in Ohio
Distracted drivers contribute to a significant number of crashes in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Public Safety reported a total of 306,000 crashes in 2016, with 77,500 of those resulting in injury and 1,055 resulting in death. The Ohio State Highway Patrol reported almost 14,000 crashes in 2016 involved distracted driving.
This figure is more than likely an underestimate because distraction is tougher to track than, say, alcohol impairment. We can’t test a driver for distraction the same way we can for alcohol. There are, of course, ways our distracted driving accident attorneys can examine fact patterns, possibly by pulling phone records, in order to make a case that the driver failed to use reasonable care, which is the duty owed other drivers.
This in turn is a form of negligence, which means you may be able to assert a claim for damages against the other driver/ insurer if you are injured as a result.
Ohio’s minimum auto insurance coverage requires bodily injury coverage of at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per crash.