(WKBN) — Beginning this week, drivers in Ohio will now be ticketed for distracted driving under a new law that allows officers to pull over drivers for being on their phones.
The law first went into effect in April featuring a six-month grace period — where officers could pull people over and hand out citations but not issue tickets — that expires Thursday, Oct. 5.
“Our troopers are going to be highly visible, working proactively to enforce this law,” said Sgt. Bridget Matt, with Ohio State Highway Patrol Public Affairs
Under the new law, police can pull drivers over for calling, texting and even using speaker-phone. It is a primary offense. However, drivers are allowed to use a hands-free device while driving.
“They can actually initiate a traffic stop and write a citation or a ticket for that offense instead of just giving a warning,” Matt said.
The new law will establish up to a $150 fine or a distracted driving course for violators on the first offense. Then a $250 fine for the second offense and $500 for the third offense within two years.
“The penalties are pretty severe and stiff, and they should be because this distracted driving is a real issue that we’re seeing on our roadways. It does result in injury and death,” Matt said.
Since 2017, there have been 73,945 distracted driving crashes, 39% of which have been with drivers between the ages of 15 and 24.
First News spoke with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on the matter when the law was introduced earlier this year. “The states that have done this have seen a real reduction in that distracted driving. That’s going to save a lot of lives, so we’re happy about that,” DeWine said.
Matt encourages drivers to use hands-free and Bluetooth devices and says there are some exceptions to the law such as calling 911. She added that the grace period was to educate drivers about safety with the hope that they’ll make behavior changes.
“Nothing is worth it. It can wait. You can pull off to the side of the road or have that conversation if you need to safely and not while driving,” Matt said.
For more information, visit the Ohio Department of Transportation’s website.