CLEVELAND (WJW) – A new law in Ohio seems to be putting the brakes on distracted driving.

Senate Bill 288, which strengthened the laws already on the books, took effect April 4, making distracted driving a separate primary traffic offense.

Law enforcement, including the Ohio State Highway Patrol, has been pulling over people and issuing warnings during a six-month grace period, but beginning Oct. 4, 2023, a first offense will be punishable by a fine of up to $150 and two points on your license unless you complete a driving safety course.

Additional offenses will carry stiffer penalties. 

  • 2nd offense in two years: three points assessed to license and $250 fine.
  • 3rd or more is two years: four points assessed to license and $500 fine with the possibility of a 90-day license suspension.

“We do believe it’s necessary,” said Tiffany Stanley, spokesperson for AAA East-Central. “We know from a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study, if you text while driving, you are eight times more likely to crash.”

According to OSHP, data shows that the stiffer law appears to be having an impact.

In April 2022 there were 856 crashes from distracted driving.

There were 722 in February 2023 and 728 in March 2023.

So far in April 2023, there have only been 391 crashes, but sadly 31 people still lost their lives this year from distracted driving.

“They’re passing away from something that is 100% preventable,” said Stanley. “We do believe that is underreported.” 

On Thursday, both AAA and OSHP were advocating for continued awareness and safe driving, encouraging people to put down those phones and all other devices that lead to distracted driving.

“Because laws alone aren’t going to solve the problem,” said Stanley.

Learn more about Ohio’s distracted driving numbers in real-time here.