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Is Texting and Driving Illegal in Ohio?

Post By Corey Heit

In a word, yes. But things are a little less cut-and-dried in practice, and simply eliminating texting and driving will not solve a root problem that makes Ohio roads and highways unsafe.

What the Ohio Cell Phone Law Says

Ohio’s texting and driving law (O.R.C. 4511.204) opens strong by stating, “No person shall drive a motor vehicle … on any street, highway, or property open to the public for vehicular traffic while using a handheld electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication.”

Unfortunately, the statute then undercuts its own effectiveness by listing 10 exceptions to the texting and driving ban. A driver can even legally use a smartphone to check directions or talk to text. Such actions may demand less full concentration than typing out a text message, but a person will certainly not be paying full attention to traffic and road conditions or what other drivers and people in the area are doing.

Still, having this law and O.R.C.4511.205, which prohibits drivers younger than 18 from talking on a cell phone while driving, on the books acknowledges the deadly risks posed by distracted drivers. Strengthening Ohio’s texting law and cell phone law for drivers could help, but the problem of people taking their eyes and minds off the road ahead will always remain to some degree.

Distraction for Any Reason Endangers Lives

As the Ohio State Highway Patrol noted in an April 2018 Traffic Safety Bulletin, “The biggest distraction category reported in 2017 in Ohio was ‘Other Inside the Vehicle’ (e.g., passengers, food, music) which comprised 58% of all distracted drivers and 49% of distracted drivers in fatal crashes. ‘Phone’ and ‘Texting/Emailing’ were the listed distractions for 25% of all distracted drivers involved in crashes in 2017, but 39% of distracted drivers in fatal crashes.”

One essential takeaway from this summary is that distracted driving kills. Another is that drivers who pay attention to pretty much anything besides driving safely are prone to crash.

Back in 2013, when smartphones were still relatively new, the Brain Injury Society cited research showing that “texting while driving is like drinking 4 beers.” Confirming this for the general public, a frequently viewed highlight from MythBusters shows a driver who is just slightly above the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration navigating a driving course more skillfully than another driver who is conducting a cell phone conversation.

So, while it is legal to talk on a phone while driving in Ohio as an adult, people simply should not do so. The dangers of not spotting a slowdown in traffic, seeing going through a stop sign or red light, or failing to recognize that a pedestrian has entered the roadway are simply too real. Mere seconds of distraction while behind the wheel can leave a driver with too little time to react and prevent a collision.

As a personal injury attorney in Columbus and Franklin County, I have helped many victims of distracted driving accidents. Whatever the specific cause, the undeniable fact is always that the crash need not have happened. If a driver hit you while texting or talking on a cell phone, you may have grounds for filing and collecting on insurance claims. To discuss your option, call Heit Law at (614) 898-5300 or connect with us online.

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