November 01, 2018

Drivers Beware! Ohio Law Expands Definition of Distracted Driving

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Drivers at Ohio now need to be very cautious and alert as a new state law, House Bill 95, that took effect on October 29 allows police to ticket drivers for distracted driving more easily. The law expands the definition of distracted driving, enhancing deterrents and fines for distracted drivers who commit moving violations

Under the previous law, distracted driving was defined as driving “using a handheld electronic wireless communications device” targeting traditional mobile phone usage while driving.

Notably, the new law also retains this definition, but it expands the term “distracted”—beyond using telecommunications or other hand-held electronic devices while driving—to include “Engaging in activity that is not necessary for the vehicle’s operation and that impairs, or reasonably would be expected to impair, the driver’s ability to drive safely.” However, the bill does not define the terms "necessary" or "impair."

As per the new law, the penalty is an additional $100 fine, which may be added on to an underlying traffic violation or may be waived after the completion of a distracted driving safety course offered by the Ohio Department of public safety.

The new law provides no further explanation of the new definition, leaving it to the discretion of officers and the courts. It is believed that this definition could be applied to any kind of distraction that is related to an accident, including consuming food or beverages or adjusting car systems like climate and radio.

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