Drivers using hand-held electronic devices while driving in Ohio will now be subject to prosecution.
Police and state troopers will issue just warnings — instead of $150 tickets — for the first six months. Teens must especially be careful: While texting behind the wheel will be a secondary offense for adults — meaning they have to be pulled over for speeding or some other offense first — it will be a primary offense for those 18 and under. The law, which was passed by the state legislature this year, restricts juveniles from using cellphones, iPods, or other electronic devices while driving.
Ohio becomes the 39th state in the country to ban texting while driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Many Ohio cities already have their own texting-while-driving bans, but the state law won’t trump those ordinances if they are tougher. The law does allow all drivers to text and use their cellphones when the vehicle is stopped and off the road. Hands-free devices are allowed, but they can’t be touched while driving.
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Adults can still talk on the telephone while driving, but juveniles can’t. The law makes texting while driving a misdemeanor, with possible fines of $150. Minors can be fined $150 for the first offense and have their license suspended for 60 days. Repeat teen offenders can be fined $300 and have their license taken away for a year.
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The Ohio FOP would have preferred that texting be a primary offense for all drivers — not just teens — because it would have been easier to enforce. State Rep. Rex Damschroder, one of the sponsors of the bill, said he plans to introduce legislation in the future that makes texting while driving a primary offense for adults, too, not just juveniles.
Our firm recently settled a case on behalf of a severely injured client hit head on by a texting teen who was left of the center of the road while driving.