YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Starting Tuesday, a new law will start affecting Ohio drivers, allowing law enforcement to pull drivers over for using their phones — even if they haven’t caused an accident.
“It’s just not worth the risk involved,” said Sgt. Ryan Purpura with Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Purpura says this new law is designed to reduce accidents and near misses. It allows officers to pull drivers over for being on their phones, even without incident — making distracted driving a primary offense.
And though a text message can take just a few seconds to send, it’s enough time to cause an accident.
“At 55 miles an hour, you’re going 80 feet per second, so just in a couple seconds when your eyes are off the road, you cover a football field of distance,” Purpura said.
Once this law goes into effect, drivers can be pulled over for calling, texting and even using speaker-phone.
Hands-free devices are allowed and there are exceptions, such as being at a red light. You can answer a call, but you can’t place one or hold your phone while doing hands-free.
Emergencies are also an exception.
The first offense is a $250 fine and points on your license, which can be removed with an education course. The fines and penalties increase with further offenses.
“If you don’t want to make the choice for you to not drive distracted — make that choice for the person next to you on the roadway, your loved one, your family member,” Purpura said.
Since 2018, there were more than 62,000 distracted driving crashes across the state –over 70 were fatal. In Mahoning County alone, there 1,327 distracted driving related crashes, four of which were fatal, and 469 resulted in injuries, according to Ohio state police.
There is a six-month grace period, where officers will pull people over and hand out citations but will not issue tickets until October.