April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a nationwide effort to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and eliminate preventable deaths or injuries on our roadways.
Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, such as adjusting the climate control, reaching for an item in your vehicle, using a cell phone, adjusting your GPS or radio, eating food, grooming yourself, or even distractions from other passengers in your vehicle. Distracted driving has been around since the inception of the automobile, but incidents of distracted driving have continued to rise as cellphones have become increasingly critical to everyday life.
Distracted driving is a serious issue in Ohio. From 2018 through 2022, there were 60,421 crashes in Ohio that involved one or more drivers who were distracted by something in their vehicles. Plevin & Gallucci has represented many individuals who faced serious injury, and even death, as a result of a distracted driver.
Ohio recently has cracked down on the dangers of distracted driving. As of April 4, 2023, it is now illegal to use or hold a cell phone or electronic device in your hand, lap, or other parts of your body while driving on Ohio roads. This includes activities such as dialing a phone number, sending a text message, updating or browsing social media, taking a photograph or video, making video calls or using Facetime, browsing the internet, watching videos, searching for music, entering navigation directions, and so on.
The new law allows state and local law enforcement officers to pull over Ohio drivers, as a primary offense, if they appear to be using a cell phone while driving. This means that an Ohio driver does not need to commit a separate primary traffic violation, such as speeding or running a red light, to get pulled over.
However, there are some important exceptions to this rule, including using a phone while:
- Making an emergency call;
- Driving a public safety vehicle and using a phone in the course of the person’s duties;
- Stopped at a red light;
- Stopped outside a lane of travel;
- Parked on a road or highway due to an emergency or road closure;
- Holding a phone near a person’s ear, provided that the person does not manually enter letters, numbers, or symbols into the device;
- Receiving messages regarding operation or navigation, or safety-related information, including emergency traffic or weather alerts, provided that the person does not hold or support the phone with any part of their body;
- Using a speaker phone, provided the person does not hold or support the phone with any part of their body;
- Using a single touch or swipe to end a call, for example.
There is a six-month grace period where Ohio officers will attempt to educate drivers on the new law. However, starting in October 2023, officers will have the authority to issue citations and penalties which include:
- A fine of up to $150 and two points on your license for the first offense;
- A fine of up to $250 and three points on your license for a second offense within two years;
- A fine of up to $500, four points on your license, and a 90-day driver’s license suspension for a third offense within two years.
Fines are doubled for those who use cellphones while driving in a construction zone. Individuals can avoid the fine and points for a first offense by taking an approved distracted driving course instead.
Modern life is full of distractions, none of which is important enough to risk injury to ourselves, our passengers, or any other traveler on the roadway. If you have been the victim of a distracted driving incident, it is imperative to take steps immediately so that a proper investigation occurs. This includes calling law enforcement so that photographs of the accident scene and witness statements can be taken. Law enforcement will also prepare an Ohio Traffic Crash Report that is critical when pursuing your personal injury claim against the distracted driver.
An experienced personal injury lawyer at Plevin & Gallucci can also assist you in preserving and gathering additional evidence to prove distracted driving, such as surveillance footage from nearby stores and restaurants (or even from nearby residents’ Ring Security Cameras), lighting sequence data at intersections, and cell phone data to prove usage.
It is important to act swiftly before evidence is lost. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in a distracted driving car accident, call 1-855-4PLEVIN to schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers. Or fill out the contact form on this page and we’ll reach out to you.