Ohio’s new driving law

By Christopher Gillett

The Ohio state government passed a bill to crack down on electronically-distracted driving, which became effective April 4.

Ohio drivers cannot interact with their phone while they drive, unless the action involves a single push or swipe, and they cannot have a phone in their hand, lap or body while driving.

Motorists must pull over to use their phones to text, make phone calls, watch videos, livestream, play games or browse the internet. Drivers over 18 can use hands-free devices or have their phone paired with their car.

GPS and navigation displays are still permitted as long as they are started before driving.

For the first six months the law is in action, law enforcement will issue warnings for violating the law. Beginning Oct. 5, law enforcement will start issuing citations for breaking the law.

Danny O’Connell, the director of Support Services at Youngstown State University, said he supports the new driving law.

“I’m glad Ohio went that way. I know a lot of states already had that law, so I think it’s a good law all the way around,” O’Connell said. “I’m a bicyclist and I ride on trails because I’m afraid to ride on streets or even bike lanes because I’ve seen what happens when people are using their phones.”

O’Connell also said students should be mindful of end-of-year stress when driving.

“This time of year, students are distracted because of exams [and] finals. There’s a lot of pressure for the next two weeks, and [Support Services] tried to remind everyone about, not the student who’s driving, but the student who’s walking,” O’Connell said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, distracted driving kills around 3,000 people every year. According to the law firm, Kidemenos, Wisehart, Hines, Dolyk & Wright Co. LPA, distracted driving was responsible for over 10,000 accidents in Ohio in 2021.

Gabrielle Wagner, a graduate physical therapy major at YSU, was involved in a car collision in 2019 because another driver was on their phone. Wagner explained her experience.

“I was leaving class. I was parked in the Wick Deck, and I was just leaving for the day and some guy rear ended me really hard. I was stopped at the stoplight over on Wick [Avenue] and he just slammed into me and he was texting,” Wagner said. “My car was totaled. I had to get a new one.”

Wagner said she was happy no one was hurt, despite the aftermath being troublesome.

“[The guy] got a ticket, and he had to go to court, and I think he just pled guilty. So he just had to pay a bunch of fines. His insurance had to cover my car. It was just a whole hassle, and just thank goodness everyone was okay. I wasn’t injured, he wasn’t injured [and] everyone was good that way. But there’s a lot of potential for anyone to get injured,” Wagner said.

Carter Cook, a freshman telecommunications major, said distracted driving is a problem, especially among freshmen and at night.

“A lot of people are on their phones and that’s probably the huge thing, and maybe like GPS, because our campus is kind of confusing for freshmen,” Cook said. “A lot of times at night here a lot of people just run through red lights because they’re on their phone.”

Lou Janowicz, a senior athletic training major, said he thinks the law will be hard to enforce.

“Reading [the new law], it’s gonna be very difficult for them to actually enforce it, and to maintain [or] ensure someone’s touched their phone one time,” Janowicz said.

If interested in learning more about the new law, go to the Ohio Department of Transportation website. To see the full law, go to the Ohio Laws and Administrative Rules website.