Ohio’s Cellphone-Use & Texting-While-Driving Laws

Read about Ohio’s distracted driving laws and the costs of a violation.

Ohio’s distracted driving laws generally ban texting-while-driving for all motorists and talking on a cellphone for only certain drivers. This article discusses the specifics of what the law prohibits and the costs and other consequences of a violation.

Talking on a Cellphone

For most Ohio motorists, there are no specific restrictions on talking on a cellphone while driving.

However, motorists who are under the age of 18 and driving with a temporary instruction permit or probationary license all wireless device use while driving is prohibited. In other words, the prohibition means no texting, no talking on a cellphone, and no other electronic devices use for these underage drivers.

Exceptions. Ohio’s wireless-device-use ban for underage drivers doesn’t apply when a device is used by a person:

  • for emergency purposes
  • who’s vehicle is parked outside a lane of traffic, or
  • using a navigation system in voice-operated or hands-free mode.

Penalties. For a first violation of the underage wireless-device-use law, there’s a $150 fine and 60-day license suspension. Second violations carry $300 in fines and a one-year license suspension.

Text Messaging

Ohio’s distracted driving law prohibits all motorists from using a handheld wireless communication device to write, send, or read a text-based communication while driving.

Handheld wireless communication devices. The distracted driving law defines “handheld wireless communication device” as any wireless telephone, text-messaging device, personal digital assistant, computer, laptop, tablet, or similar wireless device designed or used for text communications.

Exceptions. Ohio’s texting-while-driving law contains a number of exceptions. These exceptions include using a device:

  • for emergency purposes
  • while parked outside a lane of traffic
  • to reading, selecting, or entering a name to make or receive a call
  • to receive navigation or safety-related information (like weather or traffic alerts)
  • for navigation purposes, or
  • in hands-free or voice-operated mode.

Penalties. A texting-while-driving violation is a minor misdemeanor in Ohio. A conviction carries a maximum $150 fine.

Depending on the circumstances, a texting violation could also lead to a reckless driving conviction. And if a texting offense results in the death of another person, vehicular manslaughter charges are a possibility.

Enhanced Penalties for Committing Moving Violation While “Distracted”

Ohio also has a law that enhances the penalties for a moving violation where the driver committed the violation while “distracted.” For purposes of this law, “distracted” generally includes text messaging and any other activity that isn’t necessary for operating the vehicle and impairs (or reasonably could be expected to impair) the ability of the driver to operate the vehicle safely.

The distracted driving enhancement results in up to $100 being added to the fine for the other moving violation. However, the driver can elect to take a distracted driving safety course instead of paying the enhancement fine.

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