DeWine marks start of ‘phones down’ driving law

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 7, 2023

Law enforcement will issue primary offense citations for distracted driving in October

COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio Department of Public Safety director Andy Wilson, Ohio State Highway Patrol superintendent Col. Charles Jones and Ohio Department of Transportation director Jack Marchbanks unveiled on Monday a new statewide public awareness campaign to draw attention to Ohio’s strengthened distracted driving laws.

As of Tuesday, it is now illegal in most circumstances for anyone in Ohio to use or hold a cell phone or electronic device while driving.

Email newsletter signup

The new educational campaign encourages drivers to ‘Lock Your Screen Before You Rock the Road’ and includes a new website, billboards, printable posters, fact sheets, presentation slides, tip cards, and social media, radio, and television advertisements. Additional materials relay the simple, but important message of ‘Phones Down. It’s the Law.’ 

“Distracted driving crashes aren’t accidents, they’re the result of drivers who make the choice to divert their attention away from the road and risk their lives and the lives of everyone around them,” said Governor DeWine. “Far too many people have been seriously injured and killed in Ohio because of poor choices behind the wheel, and we are certain that this new law will influence positive changes in behavior and save lives as a result.”

New research from Nationwide Insurance found that 42 percent of Ohio drivers surveyed admit making a phone call on a handheld device while driving, 25 percent say they’ve texted while driving, 10 percent have video chatted, and 5 percent admitted to watching TV or a movie while driving.

“There is nothing worse than having to knock on a door and inform someone that their loved one isn’t coming home. We know distracted driving is dangerous, and we are hopeful that this new law will be a reminder of that,” Jones said.

Ohio’s strengthened law designates the use of cell phones and other electronic communications devices while driving as a primary traffic offense for all drivers and allows law enforcement to immediately pull over a distracted driver upon witnessing a violation. 

Under the previous law, distracted driving was a primary offense only for juvenile drivers, preventing officers from stopping adult distracted drivers unless those drivers also committed a separate primary traffic violation, such as speeding or running a red light.

The law includes a six-month grace period in which law enforcement will issue warnings as part of an effort to educate motorists about the law changes. Beginning on Oct. 4, law enforcement officers will begin issuing tickets to those found violating the law.