Ohio Distracted Driving Laws
- Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for novice drivers, effective 8/30/12 (Primary Law).
- Ban on texting for all drivers, effective 8/30/12 (Secondary Law).
Ohio’s Texting While Driving Stand
There is currently a bill stalled in the Senate Highways and Transportation Committee of Ohio. This bill would ban drivers from texting while a vehicle is in use. The Senate President, Tom Niehaus, says that while it is unlikely the bill will pass, many organizations and citizens approve of the legislation, however. Ohio’s House has already passed House Bill 99 but there is no word of any progress made to advance Senate Bill 35, which would prohibit all handheld devices.
There are several complaints that the passing of legislation related to distracted driving is not moving quickly enough in the state of Ohio. House Bill 99 would make it illegal for drivers to text, no matter if they are driving personal vehicles or public vehicles such as buses and trolleys. Officers who find drivers disobeying this law could fine them up to $150. The senate’s version of this bill would fine just $30 and it would only be a secondary offense. This means that the officer would have to pull the driver over for a separate reason.
There are currently no laws putting limits on cell phone use or texting while driving that cover the entire state of Ohio. Many cities and districts, however, are making their own laws and ordinances. Kettering has banned texting while driving since December 2011 with a six month waiting period before tickets can be issued. Fairview Park bans texting while driving with fines ranging up to $500. Some states have determined that distracted driving is a misdemeanor, so serial offenders or those who cause accidents may face jail time. Dublin has banned texting as well, making it primary enforcement with potential fines of $150.
Cincinnati is also enforcing a texting ban, which was voted in by members of the city council. This ban also makes accessing the internet illegal for those operating vehicles. Those who disobey the law may be fined more than $100. Drivers are still allowed to talk on the phone, however. Columbus has prohibited texting while driving since May of 2010, making it a primary enforcement issue. Bowling Green took a different route to solve the issue of distracted driving by holding a public vote in May of 2009. The anti-texting measure did not pass.
Other bills regarding distracted driving have been introduced in recent years. HB 266, written by Joseph Koziura, sought to ban drivers from using any electronic mobile devices while driving. This law would make using cell phones behind the wheel a primary offense with potential fines of $100. House Bills 261 and 262, introduced by Michael DeBose, planned to implement $250 fines and severe punishments for distracted drivers who cause accidents on the road. Both are secondary offenses but House Bill 262 would also ban the use of hands-free devices such as Bluetooth headsets.
It is true that some Ohio legislators are hesitant to pass laws regarding talking and texting while operating a vehicle. In July, the city council of Worthington rejected a ban on all use of handheld mobile phones by drivers. The city council members felt that the city’s image would suffer. The members felt that handing out tickets to people who were unaware of the laws, mostly those traveling through town from other cities, would tarnish the city’s reputation. There was also a discussion of whether or not the ban would constitute a police state where personal privacy was not valued.
Several pieces of anti-texting and talking legislation await approval or disapproval. Many have not been active in several years. Many people say that it is just a matter of time before these laws begin to pass, as the number of accidents related to distracted driving increases. Even those involved in the cell phone industry are not trying to stop these measures from passing into law. Many of those in the industry claim that the laws are warranted. Public safety is an issue that the state government holds in high regard.