Distracted driving law limits phone use: Officers begin issuing warnings in April

PUTNAM COUNTY — At the beginning of January, Governor Mike DeWine signed into law a bill that enhanced safety on the roadways. The bill focused on the use of electronics while driving. Ohio is not the only state with a law similar to this. Across the United States, laws are becoming stricter to combat motor-vehicle accidents caused by distracted driving.

“Certainly not all fatal traffic crashes are caused by distracted driving, but it’s no coincidence that evolving smartphone technology has coincided with increasing roadway deaths and injuries,” DeWine said in a previous press release. “Other states with similar distracted driving laws have experienced fewer fatal crashes, and we expect that this enhanced distracted driving law will have the same impact here.”

According to the press release from DeWine, drivers are permitted to use their phones during emergencies, at red lights, when the vehicle is parked and are permitted to hold the phone to their ears while conversing. The first 90 days of the year the law was not in effect.

In April, police officers are permitted to issue warnings to drivers. According to the release, after six months officers will be able to issue citations. Drivers can receive a fine of up to $150 and two points on their license in the event they do not complete a safety course. Chief of the Shawnee Police Department Robert Kohli said the issuing of a warning or citation will be “up to the discretion of the officer.”

The Belmore Police Department released a statement on its Facebook page informing the public of the enforcement of the law.

According to the police department post, the distracted driving law is a secondary offense but in April it will become a primary offense. This simply means police officers will now be able to pull over drivers solely for distracted driving.

“Driving down the interstate, you always see a slow-moving car or a car driving in a bizarre way and you pull up next to them on their cell phone,” said Kohli. “It is so frustrating for law enforcement to see that going on and it was not a primary offense so we could not stop drivers for that. It is nice now that we do not have to wait for that left-to-center or traffic crash. This is a good thing for the safety of all on roadways.”

Reach Precious Grundy at 567-242-0351.