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What Happens If You Get Caught Texting and Driving in Ohio?

Driving car and using phone to text. Driver using cellphone. Accident, crash and danger in traffic. Man texting with mobile app. Distracted by mobilephone.

Everyone knows that texting while driving is risky and irresponsible, but what about when you’re stopped at a light? What if there’s an emergency? And more importantly, what happens if you get caught? 

Ohio recently began enforcing regulations on this matter. Since 2019, there have been more than 57,000 distracted driving crashes in the state, of which 1,600 led to death or serious injuries. However, this number has significantly decreased after the distracted driving law took effect last year. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the consequences and nuances of the state’s texting and driving laws in 2024.

The Basics of Ohio’s Texting and Driving Laws

In Ohio, it is illegal to use or hold a cell phone or any electronic device in your hand, on your lap, or any other part of your body while driving. In most cases, anything more than a single touch or swipe of your phone is against the law.

What If You’re Stopped at a Traffic Light?

Ohio law does recognize certain exceptions to this rule. You can use your phone when:

  • Safely parked
  • Stopped at a traffic light
  • Parked on a road or highway during an emergency or road closure

What About Emergencies?

If there is an emergency that requires immediate communication, you are allowed to use your phone to contact law enforcement, a hospital, a health care provider, a fire department, or other similar emergency entities. 

This is the only time when texting or calling while driving is permissible, provided that the situation involves an actual emergency.

What Are The Ohio Distracted Driving Law Exemptions

Ohio provides several other exceptions to the texting and driving regulations:

  • Phone conversations: You’re allowed to hold a phone to your ear for conversations as long as the call is initiated or terminated by a single touch or swipe.
  • First responders and official duties: First responders, such as law enforcement, fire, and EMS personnel, may use electronic devices as part of their official duties.
  • Utility workers: Workers may operate electronic devices in utility vehicles during specific emergencies or outages.
  • Amateur radio operators: Licensed operators can use amateur radios while driving.
  • Commercial truck drivers: These drivers may use a mobile data terminal for their logistical operations.

Distracted Driving Law in Ohio: Penalties and Consequences

If caught texting and driving in Ohio, you’ll face penalties that are structured to escalate with repeated offenses within a two-year period:

  • First offense: 2 points assessed to the driver’s license and a fine of up to $150.
  • Second offense: 3 points assessed to the license and a fine of up to $250.
  • Third or subsequent offense: 4 points assessed to the license, a fine of up to $500, and a possible 90-day suspension of the driver’s license.

Note that fines are doubled if the violation occurs in a work zone. 

How to Stay Safe and Compliant

A moment’s distraction can lead to severe consequences—even a brief lapse in attention caused by texting can result in collisions, injuries, or worse. 

To avoid penalties and, more importantly, to keep yourself and others safe, keep these tips in mind:

  • Use hands-free devices: Drivers over 18 are allowed to make or receive calls using hands-free devices, including speakerphones, earpieces, wireless headsets, electronic watches, or connecting the phone directly to the vehicle’s system. However, drivers under 18 cannot use their devices in any capacity while driving, including hands-free features.
  • Minimize distractions: Enable features like “Do Not Disturb” on your smartphone to minimize distractions.
  • Prepare before driving: Set up your GPS and make any necessary phone calls before you hit the road. 
  • Secure your phone: Place your phone in a bag or in the backseat while driving to avoid the temptation to use it.
  • Educate young drivers: Teach young drivers about the dangers of texting and driving in Ohio and encourage them to take a defensive driving course to develop responsible driving habits.

Did you get into a crash with a distracted driver who was texting? Our team at Slater & Zurz is ready to help—we are committed to fighting for justice and fair compensation for accident victims. Reach out to us today at 330-762-0700 for a free consultation.