Jim Morrison once warned any listener to the song “Roadhouse Blues” to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel. Drivers in Ohio are going to want to pay special attention to that advice now.
The state recently passed a piece of legislation that would effectively make it much easier for law enforcement officers to issue citations for distracted driving. The law, which went into effect on October 29, works by expanding the official meaning of “distracted driving” in Ohio.
The nearly ubiquitous term now has an equally sprawling definition, applying to any activity not necessary to the act of driving. That means Buckeye State motorists could, in theory, be ticketed for anything from munching on a meal behind the wheel to changing the radio station.
Previously, Ohio only called for citations to be issued for texting while driving, but a spate of grisly statistics had many lawmakers open their minds to more possibilities.
According to the state Highway Patrol, distracted driving claimed the lives of 55 people in Ohio in 2017 alone. In-vehicle distractions were also to blame for 13,997 crashes in the state that year, as well as 6,988 injured individuals.
The numbers were enough to add up to a new law for members of the state legislature.
Still, distracted driving remains a secondary offense in the state—the same classification bestowed on texting while driving. That means motorists must first be pulled over for something else before an officer can issue a distracted driving ticket.
But once they’re pulled over, a driver no longer has to be caught red-handed to receive the citation. The new law lifts the burden of proving a cell phone was in use at the time, allowing officers to issue the distracted driving ticket if they simply have reason to believe the driver was distracted at the time.
The penalty also carries a $100 fine on top of whatever fees may be issued for the primary offense.
Distracted driving was recently named the biggest problem facing drivers on the road. With this new law, Ohio is one of the first states to expand the battleground on which it can be fought.