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Distracted driving law takes effect

Written on Apr 14, 2023

Using a cell phone or other electronic device while driving -- with some notable exceptions -- is now a primary offense in Ohio since April 4. 

That’s the effective date for 134-SB288 (Manning), the distracted driving bill Gov. Mike DeWine signed in early January.  

“This will clearly save lives. There’s absolutely no doubt about it,” the governor said. “It will spare many families the grief and the sorrow that unfortunately many of our families have suffered in the last few years because of distracted driving.” 

For the first six months of 134-SB288’s being effective, law enforcement officers can pull drivers over for distracted driving, but cannot issue a citation. Officers are expected to issue warnings and provide education on the new law during the “grace period,” DeWine said. Law enforcement can begin writing citations under the new law on Wednesday, Oct. 4, the governor said. 

The following exemptions are included in the new law generally prohibiting the use of electronic wireless communications devices (EWCDs) while driving: 

- Drivers can contact an emergency agency at any time while driving. 

- A person driving a public safety vehicle can use an EWCD within the course of their duties. 

- When a vehicle is in a stationary position at a red light, the driver may use their EWCD. 

- When the vehicle is parked on a road or highway due to an emergency or road closure, an EWCD may be used. 

- An EWCD can be used for navigational purposes, but the driver cannot manually enter letters, numbers or symbols while driving or support the device with their body. 

- Drivers may use an EWCD with single touch/swipe functions. 

- Drivers may make, receive or conduct a telephone call and hold the device directly near the person’s ear, as long as they are not manually entering letters, numbers of symbols into the device. 

ODOT is installing signage to educate motorists about the law at locations across the state. These include 45 signs at the state border on interstates and U.S. highways and 19 signs at exits from Ohio’s largest passenger airports in Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo. 


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