An Ohio law that expands the definition of distracted driving took effect Monday.
The previous law defined distracted driving as driving “using a handheld electronic wireless communications device” targeting traditional mobile phone usage while driving. The new law retains this definition 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 new penalty is an additional $100 fine, which may be added on to an underlying traffic violation or may be waived after the completion of a distracted driving safety course offered by the Ohio Department of public safety.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, all 50 states and several US territories have some prohibitions on driver cell phone use with 47 states having explicit bans on texting while driving.