Ohio’s new distracted driving rule is now in effort, and law enforcement officers are on the lookout for offenders across the state.
On Tuesday, News Center 7 rode alongside Huber Heights Officer James Champ as he started to search for anyone breaking the new law.
Champ was a police officer in Tennessee when the state implemented its distracted driving rule before becoming a Huber Heights cop. The new rule, like the one in Ohio, included a grace time for drivers.
“It took the grace period [to get] the state used to what the new law was,” Champ told News Center 7′s John Bedell.
Officers will use the six-month grace period, during when violators get cautions rather than tickets, to help coach drivers, according to Champ.
“If we encounter somebody with their phone in their hand, we’re not disciplining them because it is a grace period for the warnings. We’re more of a coaching aspect. We’re trying to get them to realize that it’s okay to use it, but this is how you need to use it when you’re on it,” Champ explained.
Distracted driving is now the primary offense under the new rule. Drivers can be pulled over solely for carrying or using a mobile phone while driving.
Drivers may continue to use their phones in certain situations, such as when their car is parked or stalled at a red light. Drivers are able to answer calls and holding the phone to their ears during the discussion. Calls to 911 are also permitted.
Officers may have a tough time monitoring this. Champ stated that he is searching for drivers who are in motion and have their phone out in front of them or are messaging while driving.
“If they have it up to their ear, it’s okay because you’re talking on your phone [and] you’re able to control the vehicle. But if you’re having your phone out in front of you, you’re almost looking down at your phone away from the roadway,” Champ said.
Three drivers were stopped and warned about the new rule while Champ was on monitoring. We spoke with two of the cars that were pulled over.
Amanda Gabbard of Huber Heights informed our crew she was unaware of the new rule.
“Its inconvenient to pull me over to let me know about the law,” Gabbard said, but noted that she didn’t think people should be on their phones while behind the wheel and understood that Champ was just doing his job.
Terry Collins of New Carlisle was pulled over for chatting on speaker phone while holding his phone. After the officer explained the new law, he expressed gratitude for the grace period.
“It gives people time to go find out about it [and] not do it,” Collins said.
The new law’s period expires on October 4. A first violation can result in a fee of up to $150 and two points on your license.