Many people became aware last year that Ohio intended to ban texting while driving. The law became effective technically on August 31, 2012. However, it did not actually become enforceable until March 1, 2013.
So what does the law mean? Well that depends on whether you’re an adult or a teenager. For teenagers, the law is much more restrictive.

For Teenage Drivers

  • It is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to use any mobile communications device while driving in Ohio
  • This means no texting, e-mailing, cell phone, video games, tablet, or handheld GPS use while driving, even when sitting at a light or in a traffic jam
  • Not even blue tooth technology is permitted
  • It is a primary offense, meaning a teen can be pulled over for only this offense by police

Penalties for Teenage Drivers Adjudicated Delinquent

  • First Violation: up to a $150 fine and drive license suspension for 60 days
  • Second Violation: $300 fine and license suspension for one year
  • The only exceptions are for pre-programmed GPS (that are not hand-held), emergency calls to police, ambulance, fire dept., etc.

For Adults

  • It is only illegal to text or reading/sending email while driving
  • Blue tooth technology is permitted as always
  • It is a secondary offense – meaning that an officer needs another reason to pull you over such as speeding or a marked lanes violation

Penalties for Convicted Adults

  • It is treated as a minor misdemeanor offense
  • There is a $150 fine for each infraction

While this law is good in theory, it leaves a lot of unbridled discretion in the hands of law enforcement officers. How does an officer know someone is under 18? How does an officer know an adult was texting rather than typing a phone number to call? In most instances, officers would have to get a warrant to obtain cell records to actually prove their suspicions.

So if an officer pulls you over and asks, “were you texting and driving?” Regardless of your age you should tell them you would like to speak to your attorney before answering any questions. And if they ask to search your phone, tell them you do not consent to any searches. Chances are they have no idea whether you were texting or not and answering questions is only going to make your wallet thinner.