Distracted driving law in effect today: Here’s how to not get pulled over

Ohio’s new distracted driving law goes into effect today, April 4. This means police can now pull you over if they perceive you are improperly using a cellphone while driving.

Our previous reporting has looked at how the law will be implemented — including how police officers are being trained and concerns about profiling — and the prevalence of distracted driving deaths in Ohio.

Here’s what you can and can’t do while driving under Ohio’s new laws:

What is allowed, banned and exempt?

- Holding a cellphone to your ear is allowed, but staring at a handheld phone or holding it in front of you while talking on speakerphone is not.

- Drivers are allowed “one (finger) swipe” on a screen, such as answering a call. You can’t enter letters or numbers, such as to dial or look up a phone number.

- Using an online map or navigation device is fine so long as it’s mounted on the dash or on the console — not held in the hand — and you don’t manually interact with it while driving.

- You can pull over out of the traffic and use your phone. And you can use it at red stop light, but not at a stop sign.

- There are exceptions such as using a phone in an emergency situation to call emergency responders.

- Police, other first responders and utility workers are exempt.

- So are two-way radios used by the Amateur Radio Service, AKA “ham radio.”

What can and can’t police do?

- Police can stop drivers just for using a handheld electronic device.

- But they have to actually see the driver using it.

- Officers can’t search an electronic device for evidence of recent use unless they have a warrant, or the driver allows them to do so.

- Police agencies will have to track and report racial data on everyone they stop for a distracted-driving violation.

How will people know?

- Drivers will have to sign a statement on the new law when they get or renew their licenses.

- Driver education classes and questions on license exams will cover the standards.

- Signs on some highways and at the state line will warn drivers of the new law.

- The state plans to conduct a public information campaign before the law goes into full force.

- For the law’s first six months in effect, police can only give written warnings to violators, allowing time for people to learn and adjust to the new rules.

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