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New Law in Ohio Takes Aim at Distracted Driving

A male driver in a yellow long-sleeved shirt looking at his phone in one hand while the other is on the steering wheel.

Ohio's new distracted driving law is now in effect.

Distracted driving is a major cause of car accidents in Columbus and communities throughout Ohio, and cellphones are the biggest source of that distraction. But a new state law taking effect this month is designed to prevent distracted driving crashes and save lives.

The law, which went into effect on April 4, 2023, designates the use of cellphones, as well as certain other communication devices, a primary traffic offense for drivers – and allows police to stop drivers spotted using a phone while driving.

The legislation comes into effect during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, which takes place every April.

Addressing a serious problem on the roads

"Right now, too many people are willing to risk their lives while behind the wheel to get a look at their phones," said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. "My hope is that this legislation will prompt a cultural shift around distracted driving that normalizes the fact that distracted driving is dangerous, irresponsible, and just as deadly as driving drunk."

Previously, distracted driving was considered a primary offense only for juvenile drivers, and police were not allowed to pull over adult drivers using phones while behind the wheel.

Distracted driving is often underreported. But there have been at least 73,945 distracted driving crashes in the state since 2017, including 2,186 fatal and serious injury crashes, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

"Certainly not all fatal traffic crashes are caused by distracted driving, but it's no coincidence that evolving smartphone technology has coincided with increasing roadway deaths and injuries," DeWine said.

The governor noted that states with similar distracted driving laws have experienced fewer fatal crashes, and he expects Ohio's enhanced distracted driving law will have the same effect.

"Phones down. It's the law."

The state has also launched a new website to inform drivers about the law. The site spells out which device activities are considered off-limits when driving. These activities include:

  • Dialing a phone number
  • Sending a text message
  • Updating or browsing social media
  • Video calls or FaceTime
  • Browsing the Internet
  • Watching videos
  • Playing games
  • Recording of streaming video.

However, the use of hands-free devices will still be allowed to make or receive calls. These include speakerphones, earpieces, wireless headsets, electronic watches, or connecting a phone to the vehicle's audio system.

Distracted driving is dangerous because it takes the driver's eyes off the road. Unfortunately, looking away even for a few seconds is enough time to miss a car pulling out into the street or the vehicle ahead coming to a complete stop.

An attorney can help you recover compensation.

The medical expenses of victims add up quickly and can include the cost of ambulance service, emergency room treatment, diagnostic tests, imaging tests, surgery, hospitalization, medication, physical therapy, and follow-up appointments. Victims may also miss time from work, resulting in a loss of income.

But holding distracted drivers accountable and recovering financial compensation is complicated. Distracted drivers often don't admit to doing anything wrong. As a result, insurance companies try to pay as little as possible by questioning the seriousness of injuries or making lowball settlement offers.

If you were hurt by a distracted driver, the Central Ohio law firm of Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC can investigate your crash to get the facts. We read through accident reports, seek access to cellphone records and other data, interview witnesses, and gather as much evidence as possible. Then we build a strong case for compensation that insurance companies can't ignore.

Learn more about how we can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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Charleston, WV

Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC
10 Hale St Suite 501
Charleston, WV 25301
Phone: (304) 720-1000

Columbus, OH

Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC
20 E Broad St Suite 1000
Columbus, OH 43215
Phone: (614) 587-8423