Distracted driving—anything you do that takes your attention away from the act of driving—is a big problem. Many people get behind the wheel but pay little attention to the road—fiddling with the radio, staring at the GPS, talking on the phone, or (worst of all) texting and surfing the Internet instead.
Such dangerous driving habits kill thousands of people per year: in 2017, the number of deaths directly attributed to distracted driving was 3,166 nationwide. (Tens of thousands more were injured.)
To combat this problem, federal and state governments have been passing stricter laws, cracking down on offenders, and waging public information campaigns to warn of the danger. This includes Ohio.
Let’s take a look at distracted driving laws in Ohio.
Ohio’s Distracted Driving Laws
Each state has its own laws regarding texting and other forms of distracted driving. There are 16 states that ban drivers from using hand-held cell phones for any purpose while driving. All 50 states prohibit minors from using cell phones.
In Ohio, texting and driving has been banned since 2012. However, a new law signed by Gov. John Kasich this past year expands the ban to include any form of distracted driving. It also allows law enforcement to issue drivers a $100 fine or require them to take a distracted driving course.
The new law makes distracted driving a “secondary offense.” This means that a police officer may not pull you over only because he or she saw you texting and driving; however, if the officer pulls you over and notices that you were texting, for example, he or she can issue you a ticket and fine. (This is in addition to the ticket and fine the officer can give you for the moving violation.)
Critics of the Law
There were many proponents of the new law, from law enforcement officials to family members of people killed in distracted driving accidents.
The law passed with bipartisan support, with no one testifying against the ban in legislative committee meetings. However, the law isn’t without its critics. In fact, there are people who say the law doesn’t go far enough.
In the same committee meetings, some wondered how well the law could actually be enforced. That’s because distracted driving remains a secondary, not primary, offense. (In states where distracted driving is a primary offense, officers can pull a driver over and issue a ticket just for texting or handheld cell phone use.) It might be hard for officers to prove, for example, that a driver who ran a red light did so because they were texting.
Ohio may eventually make distracted driving a primary offense. In a preliminary study reported by CBS News, states with primary enforcement of texting bans had fewer car accident-related hospitalizations than states with no bans and states with secondary enforcement. This kind of data encourages lawmakers in favor of stricter laws.
Further, it’s possible that in the future public health officials will urge the public not to use their phones at all while behind the wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration already emphasizes that even talking on the phone hands-free can be distracting. (That’s because talking on the phone is a cognitive distraction.)
Avoiding Distracted Driving Accidents
At Casper & Casper, we see the devastating effects of distracted driving every day. We understand how one person’s careless actions can have far-reaching consequences—causing another person’s serious injuries and even death.
To stay safe on the road, never drive distracted, and drive defensively to avoid an accident with distracted drivers. We recommending taking the following steps:
- Follow the rules of the road at all times.
- Never assume that the vehicles around you will obey traffic laws or do what you expect.
- Leave yourself plenty of space between you and the car in front of you.
- Give cars that seems to be behaving erratically (like slowing down and speeding up at random or swerving in their lanes) a wide berth.
- Check for oncoming traffic before proceeding at a stop sign or traffic light (even if you have the right of way).
- Put your phone on silent or use one of the many apps available to disable it while you’re driving.
If you have been injured, or if you have lost a loved one in a car accident with a distracted driver, we’re here to help. Our personal injury attorneys have the experience, knowledge, and compassion needed to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. With our help, you can fight for the compensation you need—and for the distracted driver to be held accountable for their actions.
If you have questions or are considering a personal injury claim, call us today. We’ll schedule your free consultation to talk about your case.