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Today's Family Magazine

New law for distracted driving now in effect

By James M. Smolinski, Esq.

Do you eat in the car?  Wrangle children in the back seat?  Adjust the stereo, or follow a hand-held GPS for directions?  The point is, it is not just texting and driving that can get you in trouble with the law anymore; you can now be punished for these distractions that we all might encounter behind the wheel from time to time.

A new law that went into effect this year has made it easier for police officers to ticket Ohio drivers for “distracted” driving.

Before now, an officer would have to prove a driver was texting in order to sustain the texting-while-driving charge (and the related penalties, if convicted).  But the charge of texting while driving had been the only charge of its type a driver might be exposed to in these kinds of situations.  Until now.

Under the new law, “distracted” driving includes any activity outside of those “necessary for driving” and which might “impede one’s ability to drive safely.”

So, if you are adjusting the radio and shift outside your lane of travel, you might be cited for the lane violation and for distracted driving.  If you are eating a burrito and roll a stop sign, the same extra charge might apply.  Finally, if you are speeding, and your ‘excuse’ is you were paying more attention to an important telephone call, again, you might be looking at two charges instead of one (and, potentially, additional fines and court costs).

But how would an officer know you were adjusting the radio, eating that burrito, or taking that important business call when you committed the ‘primary’ infraction?  Well, you would tell them, of course!

“Officer, I didn’t realize I was speeding because I was having an intense conversation with my wife…”  If you think this is going to help avoid the speeding charge, think again.  And it might even be worse than that!

The punishment under the law for distracted driving is either $100 or the court might permit you to take a required driver safety course instead.  Upon completion of the course, which can be taken online, the fine might be reduced or eliminated.  Still, this is a hassle nobody wants to endure – particularly if it can be avoided.

So, the lesson – as always – is be careful what you say (and mind your excuses!)

This information is courtesy of Kurt Law Office with locations in Lake, Geauga, Cuyahoga and Ashtabula counties. Visit