New state law set to go into effect in April directs law enforcement officers to stop drivers for using their cell phones while driving
Local law enforcement has begun advising residents of a new distracted driving law intended to reduce cell phone use among drivers on the road.
Bellefontaine Police Chief Brandon Standley made mention of the law during the Jan. 24 city council meeting. The law was signed by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in early January and will go into effect in April.
The law makes for stricter penalties for motorists caught using their mobile phones while driving. Chief Standley said his department will put out additional public information to residents as the effective date draws closer, but he wanted council to be aware of the impending change.
The new law allows officers to initiate a traffic stop anytime they observe a driver using, holding onto, or otherwise engaging with a cell phone while driving.
Previously, only motorists under the age of 18 could be stopped for texting while driving.
According to the law, written warnings will be issued for six months.
Following that six-month warning period, penalties under the law include a fine of up to $150 and two points against a license for a first offense; a $250 fine and three points against a license for a second offense within two years; and a fine of up to $500, four points against a license and a 90-day license revocation for a third offense within two years.
Drivers could avoid the fine and points for a first offense if they successfully complete an approved distracted driving course. For infractions committed in a construction zone, fines are doubled.
There are some exceptions to the new law, including making an emergency call to police, fire department or the hospital; using a phone while stopped on the side of the road, at a red light or because of an emergency or road closure; using speakerphone, or holding the phone next to your ear for a call; using a single touch or swipe to end a call; and using navigation services as long as you’re not typing in a destination or holding the phone.
Troopers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol have recorded 241 distracted-driving crashes in Logan County since 2018. A total of 50 of those distracted-driving crashes were among teenage drivers, according to OHP data.
Last year, there were 29 distracted-driving crashes, OHP reports, the fewest one-year total since 2018.