By Gabriel Fletcher,
Holloman Center for Social Justice
The Holloman Center for Social Justice (CSJ) at the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio wants to bring to the community’s attention a new statewide law, known as the “Distracted Driving Law,” that took effect on April 4. Although the Distracted Driving Law is already in effect, the six-month grace period, which ends October 5, means that officers will only issue warnings up until that date. This new law may have the concerning prospect of significantly increasing policing/community contacts, which is why the CSJ is disseminating information to the community. Informed community members are encouraged to take appropriate steps and precautions to avoid violating this law, which prompts police interactions.
The Distracted Driving Law fundamentally changes what Ohio drivers can and cannot do with a cell phone or other mobile device, while driving. This law lacks clarity and therefore, is not easily understood or enforced.
Important information about the Distracted Driving Law can be found below.
Ohio Revised Code Sec. 4511.204 – No person shall operate a motor vehicle… on any street, highway, or property open to the public for vehicular traffic while using, holding, or physically supporting with any part of the person’s body an electronic wireless communications device.
An electronic wireless communications device includes YOUR CELL PHONE and/or TABLET.
• Hold your phone while driving. (Except to hold it up to your ear to talk on a phone call)
• Have your phone in your lap while driving.
• Input any letters, numbers, or symbols into a device while driving, even when the phone is mounted. Thus you CANNOT, for example:
• Dial someone’s phone number while driving;
• Text while driving;
• Send an email while driving; or
• Input a destination into a map/navigation app or GPS while driving.
• Use your phone any more than single touch/swipe features while driving, even if mounted. Thus you CANNOT, for example:
• Scroll social media;
• Browse the internet; or
• Play games
• Use your phone to contact emergency services such as police, the fire department, and hospitals. Put plainly—you can pick up your phone and call 911.
• Use your phone when your car is stationary and outside a lane of travel (i.e., on the shoulder), at a traffic light, or parked on a road or highway due to an emergency or road closure.
• Hold the phone up to your ear for the purpose of making, receiving, or conducting a phone call if you do not manually enter letters, numbers, or symbols on the device.
• Receive messages and safety-related messages on your phone (provided that you do not hold or support the device with any part of your body).
• Use the speaker phone to have a conversation (provided that you do not hold or support the device with any part of your body).
• Use your cell phone for navigational (GPS) purposes as long as you do not manually enter letters, numbers, or symbols on your phone OR hold or support the device with any part of your body.
• Use a feature or function on your phone with a single touch or single swipe as long as you are not manually entering letters, numbers, or symbols OR holding or supporting your phone with any part of your body.
• Use your phone’s or vehicle’s voice-operated features/functions without the use of your hands except to swipe or single touch to activate, deactivate, or initiate the feature (provided that you do not hold or support the device with any part of your body).
• Use technology that physically or electronically integrates your phone into your vehicle, as long as you do not manually enter letters, numbers, or symbols; or hold or support the phone with any part of your body.
• You may keep your phone in a holster, harness, or article of clothing on your body.
• The phone may rest anywhere in the vehicle except resting on your body.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR THIS NEW LAW?
• The motorist will receive an unclassified misdemeanor.
• The first violation could result in a fine of up to $150.
• The second violation could result in a fine of up to $250 if the violation occurs within a two-year period of the first violation.
• The third, and subsequent, violations could result in a fine of up to $500. Additionally, three or more violations within a two-year period could result in a suspension of your driver’s license, commercial driver’s license, temporary instruction permit, probationary license, or nonresident operating privilege for ninety (90) days.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE COMMUNITY:
• Buy a cell phone dash mount for your vehicle, if you can afford it.
• Learn the voice operated functions of your phone, if available.
• Learn the voice operated functions of your vehicle, if available.
• Explore phone apps that assist in preventing distracted driving.
To review the official section of the revised Code about the distracted driving law’s language, visit: https://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-revised-code/section-4511.204/4-4-2023
Established in 2020 in response to the nationwide protests against police brutality and misconduct, the Center for Social Justice collaborates with local communities and policymakers to advocate for police reforms, voting rights, education equity and health equity in Greater Southwestern Ohio. The Center engages in policy advocacy, data collection and reporting, community education and organizing to advance racial equity in our region.
For more information about this topic, contact Gabriel Fletcher, Managing Director of the Holloman Center for Social Justice at the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio at (513) 872-5126, or GFletcher@ulgso.org.