Ohio Cell Phone Driving Laws Explained

Most recently, Ohio updated its cell phone driving laws. While most state residents know that texting and driving is illegal, many become confused when it comes to using hands free devices, operating their phone’s voice activated search features or talking on the phone while driving. In an effort to control the number of distracted driving accidents and fatalities on the road, many states have created additional cell phone regulations in an attempt to improve road safety. Drivers in Ohio, depending on which county they are in, could face additional restrictions in addition to those imposed by the state. The following explains Ohio’s cell phone driving laws for both novice and mature drivers.

Cell Phone Laws for Ohio’s Novice Drivers

Cell phone laws are less ambiguous for novice, usually teen, drivers in Ohio. Drivers who are younger than 18 may not engage in any type of wireless communication while the vehicle is in operation. This means that teen drivers are banned from texting, emailing, playing video games, talking on the phone even if it is hands free or using a GPS device unless it is hands free. The first offense for driving with an electronic device starts at a $150 fine, and the driver’s license is suspended for 60 days. If a teen violates Ohio cell phone laws a second time, the driver is fined up to $300, and the license is suspended for a full year. Teen drivers who have their licenses suspended may be required to take additional driver’s education courses.

The reason for this stricter legislation for teen drivers is because despite their smaller demographic, this group is responsible for nearly 13 percent of crashes that are fatal. The National Safety Council has historical data that corroborates this finding and reports that teen drivers between 16 and 18 are the most likely to lose their lives when driving compared to other drivers. This is why Ohio now has stricter rules for probationary drivers. These restrictions include how many passengers can be in the car and how late the driver can be on the road. Currently, a teen driver cannot be on the road after midnight, with a few exceptions.

Cell Phone Laws for Adult Drivers in Ohio

Adults cannot send a text, read a text or write a text while operating a motor vehicle. In Ohio, if the engine is on, then the car is in operation, which means texting is not allowed even if the car is stopped. The entire focus of the rules surrounding cell phone usage is to do so responsibly and in a manner that does not endanger anyone’s life. If a driver in Ohio is caught breaking the cell phone laws, then they could face a fine of up to $150. Consequent violations increase the fines up to $300. Texting while driving is considered a secondary law, which means the law enforcement officer must have another reason for pulling you over. This does not apply to novice drivers, where it is considered a primary law.

Unlike teen drivers, adults are permitted, in most counties, to talk on their cell phone while driving. This includes hands free or voice activated calling. Ohio granted each county the right to enact additional cell phone laws in their jurisdiction, and many have. Since some counties have additional restrictions, and others do not, currently the best strategy is to not use a cell phone at all when in the car. Cuyahoga County has at least seven communities who now have additional laws against cell phone operation in a moving vehicle, in addition to the bans on texting and computer use. This was prompted by the death of a child who was hit and killed by a distracted driver who was on the phone. In these counties, it is considered a primary offense to be on the phone while driving.