There is no doubt about it: distracted driving is extremely dangerous and jeopardizes your own and others’ safety. In fact, distracting driving is one of the leading causes of driver-error related accidents. CDC statistics indicate that in the United States, an average of nine people are killed daily as a result of distracted driving and 3.000 people are killed annually in these fatal crashes.

It doesn’t matter if the nature of your distraction is visually distracting, manually distracting, or mentally distracting, a distracted driving crash is entirely preventable with proper attention and responsiveness while operating a vehicle. Whether you are texting and driving or simply making a phone call, a moment of not being attentive on the road could cost the life of a passerby or yourself. The expansion of Ohio distracted driving laws and national campaigns such as Distracted Driving Awareness Month are meant to decrease the risk and occurrence of these accidents and ensure the occupants of a vehicle safely make it to and from their destinations. 

What is Distracted Driving?

In Ohio, distracted driving is defined as “any non-driving activity a person may engage in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving, thus increasing the risk of a crash.” Any activity that results in the unsafe operation of a motor vehicle falls within this definition of driver distraction. This may include text messaging, looking at or using a handheld device, eating, applying makeup, reaching behind the front seats, reaching over to a child or pet, and more. 

Ohio Distracted Driving Laws

According to Ohio law, it is illegal for a person to operate a motor vehicle of any kind and on any street, highway, or property open to public vehicular traffic while using a handheld electronic device (cell phone) to write, send, or read text-based communications. There are a few exceptions that can be found in this legislation, including the use of an electronic device for emergency purposes or for navigational purposes. (Ohio Revised Code § 4511.204)

Ohio Teenage Driver Laws

The need for any young driver to immediately respond to or view any incoming text messages will never be worth the risk that cell phone use poses to driving. From 2010 to 2014, the amount of young drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 that became distracted by their cell phones or other handheld devices nearly doubled, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. As a result, state lawmakers enacted new legislation targeting teenage drivers to help prevent the risks that are associated with distracted driving.

This law states that in Ohio, drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using any wireless telephone or hands-free text-based communication device. For these individuals, distracted driving in Ohio is a primary offense. 

Texting While Driving is a Secondary Offense for Adults

While the use of an electronic wireless communications device is prohibited for all underage drivers in Ohio and is a primary offense, it is actually a secondary offense for adult drivers (18 and up). This means that unless you commit and are charged for different traffic violations, you cannot be pulled over by a law enforcement officer for solely texting and driving, as long as you are over 18. The primary offense would be followed by a $100 ticket for any secondary offense. 

Note that some areas within Ohio have superseded the state’s secondary laws. In other words, certain areas within the state make it possible to receive an Ohio texting violation and citation – even if you haven’t broken any other driving laws.  These areas include Beachwood, Shaker Heights, Walton Hills, Brooklyn, Marietta, Bexley, North Royalton, South Euclid, Woodmere, Mantua, and North Olmsted.

Is Eating and Driving Illegal?

The act of eating and driving is not inherently illegal. However, in Ohio, anything that takes your attention away from driving and poses serious risk or harm to you or others while on the road may be a primary or secondary offense, depending on your age and location. 

Assume you are eating while driving and thus, become distracted, which then results in a moving violation such as hazardous driving patterns, running a stop sign or red light, or other dangerous driving behavior. You could be pulled over under Ohio’s distracted driving laws, with eating being the primary reason for your negligent actions. Over all, it is better to practice safe driving in all situations and avoid putting yourself and others at any risk. 

What is a Distracted Driver Safety Corridor?

Ohio inaugurated their first safety corridor in 2018 over a 17-mile area, which ultimately resulted in 30% fewer crashes. A safety corridor is a length of highway that the Ohio Department of Transportation designates as endangering areas. In these areas, there is better supervision from state troopers and other law enforcement officers to reduce the occurrences of bad driving behaviors and crashes. The active use and monitoring of these safety corridors is meant to educate drivers of distracted driving consequences, as well as be a show of intense effort to put an end to distracted driving. 

What are the Penalties for Distracted Driving in Ohio?

In Ohio, if you engage in texting and driving as a teenager, potential penalties include a 60 day license suspension and a fine of up to $150. Should you receive a second offense, the fine will double and the suspension may increase to a whole year.

If you are over the age of 18 and have received an additional $100 fine for distracted driving ( a secondary offense) on top of another moving violation (a primary offense), completing a distracted driving safety course may waive the additional fine, but not the primary violation’s penalties. 

Though texting while driving is a low level traffic offense, the consequences can be life-altering. You may end up seriously injuring or killing yourself and/or others. If you do survive an accident caused by your own texting and driving but harm or fatally injure another individual, you could be looking at much more severe civil and criminal penalties as well as a lifetime of regret.

Drive Safely, Avoid Injury

The month of April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a nationwide campaign meant to remind drivers of the grave consequences of distracted driving, including the risk it brings as well as the legal repercussions that may follow. The goal is to enforce and bring awareness to distracted driving and texting while driving laws to ultimately prevent the many injuries and deaths that result from this offense.

The road contains enough dangerous components as is. Do not add extra risk to the environment by engaging in distracted driving. These types of accidents are able to be avoided with better education, stricter driving laws, and more attentive driving behavior. We strongly encourage our Ohio neighbors to practice safe driving behavior and be cautious of others who may be distracted while on the road.

If you have been hurt as a result of a motor vehicle collision due to another person’s distracted driving or any other act of negligence, call Joseph Law Group at (216) 522-1600 today. We offer a free consultation to all car accident victims. Our Cleveland car accident lawyers are committed to serving each of our clients with respect and dedication and will work to provide you with the justice and compensation you deserve.