driver texting while driving

Ohio’s new Distracted Driving Law goes into effect on April 4, 2023

Here’s what you need to know!


As of April 4, 2023, it will be illegal to use or hold a cell phone or electronic device in your hand, lap, or other parts of the body while driving on Ohio roads.

If an officer sees a violation, they can pull you over.

Drivers aged 18 and older can make or receive calls hands-free devices, including:

  • Speakerphone
  • Earpiece
  • Wireless headset
  • Electronic watch
  • Connecting phone to vehicle

In most cases, anything more than a single touch or swipe is against the law. 

Drivers under 18 years of age are still restricted from using their devices in any way, including hands-free features. 


Can I still use Bluetooth?

This new law allows drivers over 18 to make or receive phone calls using “hands-free” technology such as Bluetooth or integrated systems within the vehicle, as long as you don’t hold or support the device or manually enter letters, numbers, or symbols. If you must physically use your device, you should pull over to a safe location and park your car before handling it.


Will there be citations for violations?

While the new distracted driving law starts on April 4, 2023, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and local law enforcement will issue warnings for six months for violations as part of the effort to educate and help motorists adapt to the new law.

Beginning October 5, 2023, law enforcement will start issuing citations for violations of the law.


What are the penalties?

  • 1st offense in two years: 2 points assessed to driver’s license, up to a $150 fine.*
  • 2nd offense in two years: 3 points assessed to license, up to a $250 fine.
  • 3rd or more offense in two years: 4 points assessed to license, up to a $500 fine, and a possible 90-day suspension of driver’s license.
  • Fines are doubled if the violation occurs in a work zone.

* Completion of a distracted driving course can help avoid the fine and points.


What is illegal under the Distracted Driver law?

  • Dialing a phone number
  • Sending a text message (unless it is via hands-free voice-to-text)
  • Any social media updates or browsing
  • Video chats or FaceTime
  • Watching videos
  • Playing games
  • Browsing the internet
  • Streaming or recording video

Drivers can listen to audio streaming apps and use navigational equipment if they turn them on before getting on the road or use a single touch or swipe to activate, modify, or deactivate them.


Of course, there are exceptions to this new law.

Exceptions include:

  • Drivers who are reporting an emergency to law enforcement, a hospital, a health care provider, a fire department, or a similar emergency entity.
  • Drivers holding a phone to their ear only during phone conversations, if the call is started or stopped with a single touch or swipe.
  • Drivers holding or using cell phones and other electronic devices while stopped at a traffic light or parked on a road or highway during an emergency or road closure.
  • First responders (law enforcement, fire, EMS), who are using electronic devices as part of their official duties.
  • Utility workers operating utility vehicles in certain emergency or outage situations.
  • Licensed operators using amateur radio.
  • Commercial truck drivers using a mobile data terminal.


The new distracted driving law can be found in Section 4511.204 of the Ohio Revised Code