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Understanding Ohio’s New Distracted Driving Law

A young female driver holds a smartphone to her ear with one hand and holds the steering wheel with the other, indicating distracted driving.

Police have more authority to catch drivers using cellphones

Ohio just got a lot tougher on people using cellphones while driving and other forms of distracted driving. On April 4, Ohio Senate Bill 288 went into effect, giving law enforcement officials more power to crack down on drivers who use cellphones and other electronic devices while driving.

“It used to be if you saw a car swerving outside of their lane of travel, you knew it was going to be a drunk driver,” Sgt. Bridget Matt with Ohio State Highway Patrol said in an interview with News 5 Cleveland. “Now, more often than not, it’s someone on their cell phone. But it looks just like someone drunk driving or driving impaired.”

Crashes caused by distracted drivers in Cuyahoga County and throughout Ohio have become a serious problem. The Cleveland car accident lawyers at Merriman Legal have witnessed firsthand the devastating consequences of such accidents and have represented countless individuals injured in crashes caused by drivers who fail to give their full attention to the road.

How severe a problem is distracted driving in Ohio?

Collisions caused by distracted drivers have become one of the leading causes of car accidents statewide. Last year, Ohio State Highway Patrol officers responded to 10,276 car crashes caused by distracted drivers, according to News 5 Cleveland.

Those figures included 971 car accidents involving distracted drivers in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland. That represented the most distracted driving crashes for any county in the state in 2022, according to the Ohio State Police Crash Dashboard.

And while distracted driving crashes can happen anywhere in Cuyahoga County, the top crash routes last year were Route 10 (which recorded 31 distracted driving accidents in 2022), Interstate 90 (30 crashes), Route 6 (28 collisions), Interstate 480 (26 accidents) and Route 422 (25 crashes).

What is Ohio’s new distracted driving law?

Signed into law earlier this year, Ohio Senate Bill 288 prohibits drivers from holding a cellphone or another electronic device while driving, in most cases. While the legislation is strict, it does allow for some exceptions.

For example, drivers are permitted to use their phones when parked or stopped at a red light, or when using a single touch or swipe to answer or end a call.

Additionally, drivers are allowed to hold their phones to their ears during phone conversations and make emergency calls to police, fire, EMS, or a hospital.

The new law also makes distracted driving involving a cellphone or another electronic device a primary offense in Ohio, according to Fox 8 News. That means law enforcement officials can pull a driver over if they see them using a cellphone or electronic device while driving, even if the driver is not breaking any other traffic laws, such as speeding.

Penalties for distracted driving in Ohio

For the first six months, police in Ohio will be issuing warnings to drivers for distracted driving, according to News 5 Cleveland. After that period, police will start issuing tickets. The new penalties for distracted driving in Ohio are:

  • First Offense – Two points on a driver’s license and up to a $150 fine unless the driver completes a distracted driving safety course.
  • Second Offense – Three points on a driver’s license and up to a $250 fine if the second offense is within two years.
  • Third Offense – Four points on a driver’s license, up to a $500 fine, and a 90-day suspension of a driver’s license if the third offense is within two years.

Merriman Legal can protect your rights.

If you were injured or a loved one died in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, you may be under the impression that you don’t need a lawyer to recover your losses, particularly in light of Ohio’s new distracted driving law.

However, it’s important to understand that the scope of most police crash investigations is limited to determining if any traffic laws were violated. This means they aren’t focused on helping you obtain the financial compensation you deserve for your accident-related expenses, which after a serious crash, can accumulate quickly.

At Merriman Legal, LLC, our Cleveland car accident lawyers understand the complexities of crashes involving distracted drivers and can aggressively advocate for the financial compensation you’re entitled to under Ohio law.

To learn more about how our team can help you, contact us and schedule a free case evaluation. Our office is located on West 9th Street in Cleveland, and we handle injury claims throughout Ohio.

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