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Police in Ohio can pull drivers over just for holding a phone, starting Tuesday

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This week, new distracted driving laws will go into effect in Ohio that allow police to pull drivers over for holding a phone in their hand or on their lap.

Starting April 4, 2023, a new law will go into effect making distracted driving a primary offense in Ohio. This means that law enforcement may pull drivers over solely for a distracted driving offense.

Under the new law, it is illegal to hold a cellphone in your lap, hand, or using other parts of the body, while driving on Ohio roads. If a police officer spots you, they are allowed to stop you.

For the next six months, law enforcement will provide warnings to drivers who violate the new distracted driving law. Starting on October 5, 2023, citations will be issued.

See penalties for violation of Ohio’s new law below.

  • 1st offense in two years: 2 points assessed to driver’s license, up to a $150 fine.
  • 2nd offense in two years: 3 points assessed to license, up to a $250 fine.
  • 3rd or more offense in two years: 4 points assessed to license, up to a $500 fine, possible 90-day suspension of driver license.
  • Fines doubled if the violation occurs in a work zone.

Exceptions to the new law include:

  • Drivers reporting an emergency to law enforcement, a hospital, health care provider, fire department, or similar emergency entity.
  • Drivers holding a phone to their ear only during phone conversations, if the call is started or stopped with a single touch or swipe.
  • Drivers holding or using cell phones and other electronic devices while stopped at a traffic light or parked on a road or highway during an emergency or road closure.
  • First responders (law enforcement, fire, EMS), using electronic devices as part of their official duties. 
  • Utility workers operating utility vehicles in certain emergency or outage situations. 
  • Licensed operators using an amateur radio.
  • Commercial truck drivers using a mobile data terminal.

The law does allow drivers who are 18 or older to to make or receive phone calls using “hands-free” technology such as Bluetooth or integrated systems within the vehicle, as long as you don’t hold or support the device or manually enter letters, numbers, or symbols. If you must physically touch the device to use it, you should pull off the road.

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