Ohio Distracted Driving Laws (All You Need to Know)

Ohio Distracted Driving Laws (All You Need to Know)

No matter how great you are at multitasking —- YOU SHOULD NEVER USE YOUR PHONE WHILE DRIVING.

There have been too many accidents caused by distracted driving. 

In an attempt to lower the rates of accidents by distractions, the State of Ohio implements strict distracted driving laws.

And, in YOUR attempt to lower this rate, you should obey these laws and avoid other distractions. 

Today, we’re going to walk you through Ohio’s distracted driving laws, as well as its penalties, other distractions, and how to avoid them. 

So let’s begin!

Distracted Driving Laws in Ohio

Ohio Distracted Driving Laws

In Ohio, there are only 2 specific distracted driving laws. These include:

  • Cell phone use
  • Earphone use

Let’s look at each one. 

Ohio Cell Phone Law

As the Ohio cell phone law states…

It is illegal to use a handheld electronic device to write, send, or read messages when behind the wheel. 

Yes, there are a few exemptions to this, including: 

  • Using your phone in hands-free mode. 
  • Using your phone when your vehicle is parked or stopped at a red light.
  • Swiping phone screens when answering a call.
  • Holding the phone to your ear when on a call.
  • Answering emergency calls.
  • Using the GPS function of your phone if your phone is mounted on your dash or console.

However, if you’re under 18 years old, the law is stricter. 

It states that…

It is illegal for teens below 18 years old to use ANY electronic device while driving, even if sitting at a traffic light or traffic jam. 

That means you cannot use your phone — and yes, that even includes hands-free calling. 

The only exception is if the teen is making an emergency call or using a mounted navigation device. 

Ohio Earphone Law

Did you know that loud music can be a distraction, too?

Not just that, but not being able to hear your surroundings is very dangerous. 

This is why the State of Ohio makes it illegal to wear headphones, earphones, or earplugs over both ears when driving. 

That said, you are allowed to wear: 

  • Hearing aids
  • Protective headgear with built-in speakers (if riding a motorcycle)
  • Only one earbud or headphone while behind the wheel

Distracted Driving Penalties in Ohio 

On January 2023, Senate Bill 288 was signed. 

This made the cell phone law a primary offense for all drivers (teens and adults). 

Before, you could only be charged with breaking the cell phone law if you committed another violation. 

Now, a law enforcement officer can stop you for no other reason than if they see you driving and using your phone. 

Long story short — the law has become a lot stricter. 

And if you’re caught, you’ll face the penalties…

First Offense

Drivers caught driving while distracted (texting, holding their mobile phone/tablets, or wearing both earphones) will be fined up to $150 and have 2 points added to their licenses.

You can remove the 2 points if you complete a distracted driving safety course. 

Your first offense is a minor misdemeanor and you may have to serve 30 hours of community service. 

Second Offense

If you are caught breaking Ohio’s distracted driving law within two years of your first offense, you could be fined up to $250, and 3 points will be added to your license. 

Violators will also receive a fourth-degree misdemeanor citation and may face up to 20 hours of community service, plus 30 days of jail time. 

Subsequent Offenses

If you break Ohio’s distracted driving law for the third time and onwards, then you can be fined up to $500, and 4 points will be added to your license.

Your driver’s license will also be suspended for 90 days if your violation occurred within two years of your last.

Moreover, this is already a third-degree misdemeanor citation, up to 20 hours of community service, and up to 60 days of jail time.

Other Forms of Distracted Driving 

Sure, the law only focuses on cell phone and earphone use. 

However, those aren’t the only things that distract you.

Remember, the most important thing here is to avoid accidents caused by distractions. 

And to do that, you need to avoid anything that:

  • Removes your eyes from the road
  • Removes your hands from the wheel
  • Removes your mind on the driving task 

So distracted driving includes:

  • Eating while driving
  • Turning your head to admire a foreign sports car
  • Talking to your passengers
  • Applying makeup or chapstick while driving
  • Picking up an item that fell on the floor 
  • Reaching for something at the back
  • Rearranging things in your car while you’re driving
  • Arguing with someone
  • Dealing with rowdy kids or pets

How to Avoid Distracted Driving

Avoiding distractions…

That’s easier said than done. 

So to help you, here are some helpful tips:

  • Don’t answer a text or call unless you are sure it’s an emergency. Or, if you’re already talking to someone, let them know that you are about to drive. 
  • Feeling a bit tired? Pull off the road. Never drive while exhausted or sleepy as this can be a distraction, too. 
  • Limit the number of passengers in your car. It’s easier to get distracted when many people are talking. 
  • Avoid eating while driving. Yes, those chicken nuggets from McDonald’s probably smell divine. But resist the temptation to grab a bite. And if you can’t, pull over somewhere safe. 
  • Apply any makeup before you start moving. 
  • Don’t reach for items that might have fallen on the floor or are at the back. You can ask someone to get it for you, or just leave it until your vehicle is stopped. 
  • Resist the urge to rearrange things in your car.
  • Don’t let your pet block your view. Your fur baby is cute, but you can show them off more once you’ve parked properly.

Passengers have a responsibility, too. Here’s how you can keep your driver from getting distracted:

  • Don’t call for their attention unless it is an absolute must.
  • Reduce distractions for your driver by taking over navigation.
  • If you sense that your driver’s focus is drifting, please remind them to pay attention to the road.
  • Is your significant other driving? Maybe avoid some hanky-panky while on the road. That can wait till you get home. 


Got some questions about Ohio distracted driving laws?

Then let’s answer the most asked ones. 

Is it illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving in Ohio?

It depends on your age. 

If you’re 18 and above, it is not illegal to answer a call while driving in Ohio. 

However, if you are below 18 years old, then yes, it is illegal — unless the call is an emergency. 

Is distracted driving a misdemeanor in Ohio?

Yes, it is considered a misdemeanor if caught driving while distracted in Ohio. 

Is Ohio a hands-free state?

Yes, you are allowed to use a cellphone if it is in hands-free mode. 

However, this does not apply to teens below 18 years old. 

Can you eat while driving in Ohio?

Yes, you can. No law in Ohio prohibits you from eating while you drive. 

However, this is one form of distracting driving — so you must avoid it at all costs if you want safety for everyone. 

Can you text at a red light in Ohio?

Yes, you are allowed to text if your vehicle is stopped. 

But again, this is not allowed for teens below 18 years old. 


Distracted driving is distracted driving — law or no law. 

Whether you are checking your phone for texts, taking a bite out of your sandwich, or talking to your passenger — these are distractions. 

It doesn’t matter how good of a driver you are. If you are distracted for even one second, you can get into pretty nasty accidents. 

Our advice?

Obey Ohio distracted driving laws…

Also, make sure you keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the steering wheel, and your focus on the task. 

Always choose to be a safe and responsible driver!

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