Ohio bans distracted driving, cops to fill in details

A number of states have banned driver use of handheld cellphones, but the Ohio legislature has now gone further by enacting a ban on distracted driving that

retains [such a ban] while also expanding distracted to include “Engaging in activity that is not necessary for the vehicle’s operation and that impairs, or reasonably would be expected to impair, the driver’s ability to drive safely.”

The new law provides no further explanation of the new definition, leaving it to the discretion of officers and the courts. It is thought that this definition could be applied to any kind of distraction that is related to an accident, including consuming food and beverages or adjusting car systems like climate and radio.

The problem here with vagueness and enforcement discretion go beyond the scope of the penalty, which for now is only $100. [Tim Zubizarreta, Jurist; Scott Greenfield; Tim Cushing on Twitter (“a blank check for pretextual stops”); earlier]

7 Comments

  • I am concerned that leaving enforcement of this new law to police discretion is open to all sorts of abuses including helping to erase budget deficits or retaliation against those that don’t respect cops.

    What driver doesn’t turn the radio dial, heat, etc.while driving? Am I distracted if I speak to my passenger? Am I distracted if I’m alone and talking to myself or singing along with the radio? While I don’t live in OH, if I’m driving from PA to IN on I80, I don’t see how I can cross the state without losing the signal of a radio station. Am I now required to pull into a rest stop to change from a Cleveland station to a Toledo station?

    As it’s only an extra $100 fine, there is more effort needed to fight the constitutionality of the law than paying the fine. Perhaps the OH legislature is counting on this. Can you say “class action”?

    • As it is an enhancement, you cannot be pulled over only for distracted driving. You have to be cited for one of a large number of enumerated offenses. Still useful for abusive budget and punishment purposes, but not for establishing an initial cause to stop.

  • “Am I now required to pull into a rest stop to change from a Cleveland station to a Toledo station?”

    Sirius XM, they follow you everywhere. Of course, that won’t help if you have to blow your nose or wipe the tears from your eyes for having to drive through a such a (add your own abusive political descriptive term) state.

    Politics is a disease known for destroying all vestiges of common sense.

  • How is an officer supposed to tell if someone is or was changing the radio station? Was reaching for his drink right before an accident? A really big distraction is kids in the car–banned?

    • That’s my point. When is the last time someone fought a ticket with it being the cop’s word against the driver’s, and, in the absence of any other evidence, the judge ruled for the driver? If the cop says you changed the radio station, prove you didn’t. I see this law as a revenue generator and little else. The official intent is to improve driving habits. It won’t!

  • Does this mean that the computer, 2 way radio, and cell usage will end in police cruisers?

    Didn’t think so.

    • Sure it will.

      After all, police abide by window tinting regulations, leaving unattended cars running, seatbelt laws, etc.

      I am shocked – shocked I tell you that you think the police won’t be on the front lines of exhibiting “correct” and legal behavior.

      Next thing you know, you’ll be trying to cast cities and governments being above the law.

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