April 3, 2013


Effective March 1, 2013, law enforcement officers in Ohio may ticket drivers for certain uses of “electronic wireless communication devices” while driving. Under R.C. 4511.204, no one may drive a motor vehicle while using such a device to “write, send, or read a text-based communication.” There are a number of exceptions, including the entering of a phone number into a cell phone, the use of a GPS system, or texting in an emergency.

A second statute, R.C. 4511.205, applies to drivers with temporary licenses who are under the age of 18, and to drivers with probationary licenses. Those drivers are barred from any use of an “electronic wireless communication device,” which means they are prohibited not only from texting but also from using cell phones while driving, whether or not the phone is handheld. The law does not apply to emergency uses, or to use while the vehicle is stationary and outside of a lane of travel, such as in a parking lot. It also does not apply to the hands-free use of a GPS system.

For drivers under the age of 18 with temporary driving permits, law enforcement officers who observe a violation may issue a ticket. For drivers over the age of 18, the violation is a secondary offense, meaning that the officer must see and stop the driver for a primary offense (such as speeding) before ticketing the driver for texting while driving.

The law, which was effective August 31, 2012, provided that for six months, offenders would receive only warnings. The warning period ended on March 1, 2013.

Under either statute, the first offense is punishable by a fine of $150 and a 60-day driver’s license suspension. Repeat offenders can be fined $300 and a one-year driver’s license suspension.