CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – The Ohio State Highway Patrol says several recent incidents illustrate the importance of the state’s new distracted driving law, which goes into effect next month.

On Sunday, an OSHP dash camera captured what turned out to be a close call for a trooper, when a distracted driver went left of center and nearly collided with his cruiser in Putnam County.

The trooper caught up with the car, and the driver admitted that a problem with his cell phone was to blame for the near collision.

On the video, the trooper asked, “Hey, what’s the issue?”

The driver responded, “Oh, it was completely my fault, I dropped my phone and I went for it and moved my knee across my steering wheel.”

The trooper cited the Michigan man for driving left of center.

The highway patrol says the incident shows how easily drivers can become distracted.

Since 2018, there have been 62,000 crashes across Ohio involving distracted driving and OSHP believes that number is underreported.  

“A few seconds to write a text or read a text, your eyes are off the roadway and in those few seconds, you can cover the length of a football field and not even know it,” said Sgt. Ryan Purpura.

In another troubling traffic stop involving distracted driving, a trooper pulled over a tractor-trailer in Bucyrus after noticing the driver was straddling two lanes of the highway.

The driver conceded that he was paying more attention to a link to his surveillance cameras at home than he was to the road in front of him.

On video from the trooper’s body camera, he asked, “You were watching your cameras at home? The truck driver responded, “Yeah.”

The trooper then said, “While you’re driving? That’s distracted driving.”

In response to such incidents, Ohio’s new distracted driving law takes effect on April 4th.

The new law gives law enforcement probable cause to pull over drivers if officers witness them illegally using their cell phones or other electronic devices.

According to Sgt. Purpura, “You can’t hold your cell phone in your hand, you can’t talk on speaker phone, you can’t use your body to support that device and talk on the phone, you cannot put any manual input, no texting, no entering a phone number.”

But there will be exceptions to the new law. Drivers will be allowed to swipe their phones and hold them up to their ears during phone calls, use the devices at red lights, and report emergencies. After the new law goes into effect, there will be a six-month grace period, during which law enforcement will issue warnings to educate drivers and try to break some bad habits. “Each time you get behind the wheel, to just eliminate that distraction, put that cell phone down, electronic device down and pay attention and focus on driving.”

Here is a link that explains more about the new law.