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Ohio drivers can be pulled over for cellphone use, distracted driving under new law

Distracting driving bill signed.jpg
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
Gov. Mike DeWine (center) signs SB 288, a bill that bans drivers from holding cellphones along with other changes.

Gov. Mike DeWine has signed into law a measure he pushed for last year that would crack down on distracted driving, including texting, reading or watching videos behind the wheel.

It’s part of a bill with a lot of changes to state laws on crime.

The bill bans drivers from holding cellphones and makes that an offense for which they can be pulled over. But Ohio State Highway Patrol superintendent Col. Charles Jones says law enforcement won’t write a ticket unless they’re certain a violation was committed.

“If they're not sure, then the stop doesn't take place and the citation doesn't happen," Jones said.

A first offense will get a driver a fine of up to $150 and two points on the driver's record. A second offense within two years is a potential $250 fine and three points. A third offense within two years could bring a fine of up to $500 and a 90-day suspension of the driver's license.

There are exceptions, including using navigation apps as long as the driver isn’t holding the phone or typing, making an emergency call and using the speakerphone mode.

The bill has a lot of criminal justice provisions, including making strangulation a felony – Ohio is the only state where it’s a misdemeanor. It sets up child abuse and dating violence education in schools, and increases the penalty for causing a disturbance during a religious gathering. It also makes it a crime for health care providers to use their own sperm in fertility-related procedures without a patient's consent, known as "fraudulent assisted reproduction".

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.