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Ohio distracted driving law goes into effect

On Monday, Gov. Mike DeWine unveiled a statewide public awareness campaign to draw attention to the new distracted driving law.

OHIO, USA — Starting Tuesday, it will be illegal in most circumstances for drivers in Ohio to use a cellphone or electronic device while driving.

The legislation, which Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law in January, will allow people to be stopped by police solely for holding or using a cellphone while driving. It specifically will prohibit drivers from “using, holding, or physically supporting” a cellphone. 

The legislature comes with some exceptions, such as if they are stopped at a red light, using a speakerphone function without holding the phone, or holding phones to their ears for calls but not using texting or typing functions.

It's recommended that drivers pull over to a safe location and park their cars if they must use their devices. 

"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."

Credit: Ohio Department of Transportation

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. Starting Oct. 5, law enforcement officers will begin issuing tickets to those found violating the law.

Drivers will receive two points on their license and up to a $150 fine for their first offense and three points and up to a $250 fine for their second offense. 

If the driver commits three or more offenses, four points will be added to their license and they could receive up to a $500 fine. Additionally, the driver's license could be suspended for 90 days. 

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

Drivers 10TV spoke with say the law is a good thing and they often see people on their phones.

“Especially on my way home from work on the expressway, people are on their phones, texting while driving, or barely even looking at the road,” said Ben Forrester.

“It’s 2023, use your [Apple] CarPlay, use whatever you have... I saw a grown man the other day holding his phone with two hands on the highway, ridiculous,” said Emily Pond. 

Leah Fullenkamp shares how she lost her husband to distracted driving in 2018, a tragedy she hopes no family has to face.

"My husband was hit while driving a tractor from behind from a lady using a cell phone. And she admitted that she was shopping online during this,” shares Fullenkamp.

She says she hopes the new driving laws will save lives as she continues to endure the pain, five years later.

"I was a teacher for 14 years. And the year after he passed, I stopped teaching. My kids weren't doing well. I wasn't doing well. So I stayed home with them. And I completely gave up my career to make sure that my kids were okay,” said Fullenkamp.

On Monday, Gov. Mike DeWine unveiled a statewide public awareness campaign to draw attention to the new distracted driving law. You can read more about it here

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