Ohio’s Cell Phone-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. The laws also put restrictions on cell phone use while driving. This article discusses the specifics of what the law prohibits and the costs and other consequences of a violation.

Ohio's Distracted Driving (Texting and Cell Phones) Laws

Ohio's distracted driving laws cover cell phone use and texting while driving.

Ohio's Texting-While-Driving Restrictions

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

The distracted driving law defines a "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.

Exception to Ohio's Texting

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

  • for emergency purposes
  • to read, select, or enter 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.

Also, drivers who are parked outside a lane of traffic are permitted to text.

Ohio's Restrictions on Talking on a Cell Phone While Driving

Ohio's restrictions on cell phone use while driving are unusual. Most drivers can talk on a cell phone while driving if in a hands-free (speaker phone) mode or if they are holding the phone near their ear and do not manually enter letters, numbers, or symbols into the device.

Ohio's Distracted Driving Penalties

A texting-while-driving violation is an unclassified misdemeanor in Ohio. A conviction carries a maximum fine of:

  • $150 and two traffic violation points for a first violation
  • $250 and three traffic violation points for a second violation within two years, and
  • $500 and four traffic violation points for a third or subsequent violation within two years.

The fines on all offenses are doubled for violations that take place in a construction zone. On a first offense, the driver can generally avoid points and the fine by completing a distracted driving course.

For a third or subsequent violation, the judge can also suspend the driver's license for 90 days.

Texting and Phone Restrictions for Underage Drivers

For 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 cell phone, and no other electronic device use for these underage drivers.

Exceptions for Underage Drivers

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

  • for emergency purposes, or
  • using a navigation system in voice-operated or hands-free mode.

Also, the prohibition doesn't apply when an underage driver is parked outside a lane of traffic.

Fines and License Suspension for Underage Texting and Phone Violations

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

Enhanced Penalties for Committing Moving Violation While "Distracted"

Ohio also has a law that enhances the penalties for a moving violation (like speeding or running a red light) 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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