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Driver looking down at their phone while driving

CHANGE IN OHIO TRAFFIC LAW: AM I BREAKING THE LAW BY DRIVING WITH AN APPLE WATCH?


Ohio recently enacted a law prohibiting the use of handheld electronic devices while driving.  Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.204 provides “No person shall operate a motor vehicle on any street, highway or property open to the public for vehicular traffic while using, holding or physically supporting with any part of the person’s body an electric wireless communication device.”  This is a primary offense which means that the police may stop and detain you if they  believe you are violating this law.  The police officer must actually see you violating the law before they can stop you.  This offense it is considered to be an unclassified misdemeanor.  The first offense can result in a fine of up to $150 with two points assessed.  Points and fines go up after each conviction.  A third conviction in two years can result in a fine of up to $500, a license suspension for ninety days and four points. 

It is interesting to note that the law applies to more than just cellphones.  Any electronic wireless device such as a laptop or a computer tablet applies.  Would an Apple Watch be considered a handheld electronic device?  A strict reading of Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.204 would lead one to say yes because an electronic wireless device is defined as any device capable of displaying a video, movie, broadcast image or visual image or any wireless device designed to communicate texts or initiate or receive communications.  A person driving while wearing an Apple Watch would technically be violating the law. 

A person violates this new texting law if they use a wireless device and that device is touching any part of their person while they are driving.  There are a few exceptions.  You are allowed to use the device while you are in a car to contact law enforcement or to call a hospital or healthcare department during an emergency.  Additionally, you may use a wireless device if your vehicle is stationary and outside the lanes of travel or if you are at a red light or stop sign. 

      Ohio drivers are allowed to use the handheld device for navigation purposes but they may not manually enter letters, numbers or symbols into the device or hold or support the device with any part of their body while they are driving.  Swipe only!!

       It will be interesting to see how Ohio courts interpret and enforce this law designed to prohibit texting and driving.