As of April 4, 2023, it is illegal in the State of Ohio to use or hold a cell phone in your hand, lap or other parts of the body while driving. If an officer sees a violation, they can pull you over. Drivers over 18 can make or receive calls via a hands-free device, including: speakerphone, earpiece, wireless headset, electronic watch, or connecting the phone to your vehicle. In most cases, anything more than a single touch or swipe is against the law.
You can use hands-free technology like Bluetooth as long as you don’t hold the device or manually enter numbers, letters or symbols. If you have to do that to make a call, you must find a safe location to park your car before making the call. Drivers can listen to audio streaming apps and use navigational equipment as long as they turn them on before getting on the road or use a single touch/swipe to activate them.
Drivers can hold a phone to their ear during a phone conversation if the call is started and stopped with a single touch/swipe. Drivers may also hold or use their cell phone when stopped at a traffic light or parked on a roadway or highway during an emergency. Of course, in an emergency, drivers may call emergency services.
What is off-limits? Dialing a phone number, sending a text message (unless it is voice to text via a hands-free method), video calls, FaceTime, browsing the internet, or recording or streaming video are just some of the actions that are prohibited.
Remember that drivers under the age of 18 are restricted from using any electronic device in any way while driving, even while sitting at a light or while using hands-free features. They may however use a navigational device, as long as it is in hands-free or voice activated mode. Teens may not input information into the device while driving.
Officers are currently issuing warnings for violations in an effort to educate the public and allow time to adapt to the new law. Starting October 5, 2023, law enforcement will begin to issue citations for violations. The first offense in two years is 2 points assessed to your driver’s license and up to a $150 fine. The second offense is 3 points and up to a $250 fine. The third offense and beyond is 4 points, up to a $500 fine and a possible 90-day license suspension.